A New Book by Dr. Sean Kelly

IISE is pleased to announce a recent publication by Dr. Sean Kelly, entitled "Assessing Teacher Quality: Understanding Teacher Effects on Instruction and Achievement". Dr. Kelly is an Assistant Professor and IISE Senior Research Fellow at the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. The book was published on 2 December 2011 by Teachers College Press.
Down below, you can find our conversation with Dr. Kelly about his new book:

• What sparked your interest in writing about teacher quality?

“Assessing Teacher Quality was motivated by the fast-paced changes in teacher accountability policies. I began work on this project in 2008. At that time, several districts and states were beginning to capitalize on newly developed data systems to link student achievement data to individual teachers. Since that time, spurred on in part by the federal Race to the Top grant program, many more states have moved to adopt test-based teacher accountability policies. This book was an effort to bring together a diverse group of educational researchers to begin to make inferences about what effects these policies might have on educational improvement. In many cases, this meant looking to basic research on school and teacher effectiveness and to studies of school-level accountability, in an effort to inform the implementation of teacher accountability. Really, reforms are happening faster than educational researchers can keep up, so we have to look to the existing body of knowledge on school and teacher effectiveness to anticipate consequences and plan for future research.”

• Can you please summarize your experience in writing this book?

“This was a very positive experience for me. The book grew out of a conference I organized at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Research on Educational Opportunity (CREO). I was very fortunate to have CREO’s support to help launch this project. One of the things I wanted to do with this book was to draw on as broad as possible of a knowledge base. Thus, contributors include economists, psychologists, teacher educators, sociologists, and experts in policy and administration. I also wanted to include two types of chapters, those that would synthesis, summarize, and distill existing research findings, but also new empirical studies. I’m very pleased at how that turned out; ATQ contains excellent interpretive chapters by scholars like Adam Gamoran, Richard Ingersoll, and Laura Hamilton, but also compelling new qualitative and quantitative studies of teachers’ work that help us to understand the complexities of teacher effectiveness. Finally, I wanted to edit this book so that it could be a resource for a wide-array of readers, not just existing scholars of teacher quality. Each of the authors was very gracious in responding to my requests for revisions along those lines, and the editorial staff at Teachers College Press has a very keen understanding of how to write about complex issues in an accessible way.”

• In your opinion what is the significance of your book to the field?

“Teacher accountability reforms are promising, because we know that teachers do vary in their effectiveness, and that good teachers can make a huge difference in students’ lives. Yet, this book challenges the idea that incentives (rewards and sanctions) for teachers alone will be enough to solve our most pressing educational problems. Throughout the book, this perspective is supported by robust empirical evidence, and grounded in theoretical frameworks of learning, teaching, and organizational improvement. In Chapter One, I make the argument that educational reforms will only be successful if they focus on the process of instruction itself, and give schools and teachers improved capacity to meet fundamental problems of instruction head-on. Gamoran’s concluding chapter, and everything in between, supports that perspective. That being said, one of the things I like best about this book is that as a whole, it presents, I think, a very balanced evaluation of teacher accountability policies. None of the authors dismiss the basic idea that, like any professional, teachers should be held accountable for the quality of their work. Indeed, several of the authors see some real possibilities for instructional improvement tied to greater accountability. I hope that ATQ helps inform the work of policymakers and school administrators. I also hope that for all those reading the book, they come away with an appreciation of the difficulty and complexity of teaching, and the need for genuine investments in our schools.”

• You might add some additional information that you think it is important to share.

“The ideas, issues, and policies we discuss in ATQ are going to continue to play a major role in educational reform efforts for the foreseeable future. As states seek to evaluate new teacher accountability policies, there is a great opportunity for research to help improve implementation. I’m currently collaborating with researchers at Michigan State University, the University of Notre Dame, and the Michigan Department of Education, to study teacher accountability policies in Michigan. It’s exciting to think how much more knowledge we might have on teacher effectiveness just a few years from now.”

Endorsements for ATQ

"This book is a valuable corrective to the current frenzied enthusiasm among policymakers for untested methods of teacher accountability. It offers a balanced and thoughtful critique of some of our most popular fads in educational policy." —Diane Ravitch, New York University, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System
“Assessing Teacher Quality is essential reading for those concerned about raising student achievement. The state-of-the-art quantitative and qualitative empirical research contained in this volume is grounded in a robust theoretical framework and clearly demonstrates the critical role teachers play in the learning process. Kelly’s book makes a significant and timely contribution to contemporary school reform efforts.” —Maureen Hallinan, William P. and Hazel B. White Professor of Sociology, University of Notre Dame