Bruno: The Fixed Mindset Of TNTP's "The Irreplaceables"
Would the folks at TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project) accept the argument that because many students of color and students from low-income households do not improve their academic achievement over time that we should not prioritize helping them do so? I doubt it, but I'm not sure how to make sense of their recent report on selectively retaining teachers who are most effective in the classroom without resorting to a similar sort of logic.
The Irreplaceables argues that one of the "fallacies" of teacher retention systems is the idea that "most low-performing teachers will improve to an acceptable level in the future". Their evidence is that, on average, low-performing teachers do not, in fact improve very much, even when their principals report that staff development is a high priority.
In other words, TNTP is operating with a "fixed" theory of teaching ability rather than a "growth" theory, and they are doing so explicitly.
We can probably all agree that there are some teachers who, even with reasonable evaluation, intervention, and support, will not improve enough and should be dismissed. The Irreplaceables, however, writes off large swathes of teachers altogether and unecessarily dismisses the possibility improvement for all teachers on the basis of a theory of ability that is probably wrong.
To see what's wrong with TNTP's report, though, it's not necessary to get that far into the weeds of the research. All we really need to do is stop and ask ourselves if we would be comfortable using TNTP's logic to talk about students instead of their teachers. I'm guessing most of us would not casually accept the idea that most kids' skills and abilities are basically fixed when they arrive at school, so it's hard for me to understand why we should assume that same about teachers. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)