Blog Response to A Teacher Quality Manifesto: Teachers are People, Too

Last week, we began working on a blog response to a ripped-out piece of newspaper from the Wall Street Journal, even in the midst of the excitement surrounding the news of Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark’s public education system. This week’s blog response on teaching quality is brought to you by CHIP team members: Kat Rosqueta, Kate Barrett, Alejandro Adler, and one of our new research assistants, Masha Jones.

In her recent Wall Street Journal editorial, Harlem Village Academies founder and CEO Deborah Kenny attributes the schools’ outstanding results1 to “[c]ulture—how people feel at work, how they are treated, and the values exhibited by their colleagues…”2 Kenny points multiple times to teamwork as a major factor contributing to a positive school culture. At the academies, teachers work closely with principals, help and learn from one another, and have fun together.

Literature suggests that human interactions are key in determining the effectiveness of not only teachers, but also of other professionals. Leader support has been shown to encourage the creativity of employees,3 and leaders’ moods also affect performance, either inspiring or inhibiting workers’ efforts.4 Furthermore, studies show that across industries, positive interpersonal relationships in the workplace lead to higher job satisfaction5 and better productivity.6

In describing that teamwork in large part accounts for the success of Harlem Village Academies, Kenny reminds us that all human endeavors benefit from relationships based on trust, respect, and exchange of knowledge and ideas. In the case of the academies, this means that teachers collaborate with principals to make school-wide decisions, observe and analyze each other’s lessons, and contribute to a general sense of camaraderie that makes teachers happier and more productive.

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy has created a guide for donors on teaching quality slated to be published in Winter 2011 that describes the most promising models for improving the teaching of high-need secondary students in the U.S. It comes as no surprise that cooperation among teachers and between teachers and principals is a recurring theme in our guide. Some of the most high-impact models establish networks that allow principals to discuss issues and exchange information, making their jobs less overwhelming. They create professional development programs and new teacher induction programs that enable experienced, effective teachers to mentor novice teachers through techniques such as role-modeling and joint lesson planning.

It is no wonder that an environment of intellectual stimulation and emotional support arms teachers not only with concrete skills, but also with a sense of confidence and motivation that makes them more effective. After all, teachers are people, too.

1 “Results,” Harlem Village Academies, (accessed 24 September 24, 2010).

2 Kenny, Deborah. “A Teacher Quality Manifeso” The Wall Street Journal (22 September 2010)

3 Amabile, Teresa M., Elizabeth A. Schatzel, Giovanni B. Moneta, and Steven J. Kramer. Corrigendum to “Leader behaviors and the work environment for creativity: Perceived leader support” [The Leadership Quarterly, 15 (2004) 5–32], The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 17, Issue 6, December 2006, Pages 679-680.

4 Goleman, Daniel (2001). “Primal leadership: The hidden driver of great performance.” Harvard Business Review [0017-8012] Volume 79, Issue 11, Page 42.

5 Agho, Augustine O., Mueller, Charles W., Price, James L. (1993). “Determinants of Employee Job Satisfaction: An Empirical Test of a Causal Model” Human Relations August 1993 vol. 46 no. 8 1007-1027.

6 Laschinger, Spence (2008). “Effect of Empowerment on Professional Practice Environments, Work Satisfaction, and Patient Care Quality: Further Testing the Nursing Worklife Model.” Journal of Nursing Care Quality: October/December 2008 – Volume 23 – Issue 4 – p 322-330.