The news on this has been out for a while now, but it's worth highlighting, nonetheless. A new study of North Carolina schools found that good teachers not only benefit their own classrooms, but they help improve the performance of other teachers in other classrooms. In other words, having a master teacher in a school can help all of the teachers at the school.
This was immediately spun into the debate over merit pay for teachers and both sides are using it to support their own claims. Follow the link above for all the gory details. That's a good point to consider in light of this and not surprising, since that's one of the hot button topics right now and so all discussions seem to come back to that at some point.
However, I tend to find myself thinking about the need and possibility for more professional development in schools. In all the push to get rid of the bad teachers and reward the exceptional teachers, we tend to forget about the ones in the middle who are just plain average. These are the hard workers who do good things, but are not the kind of people who are going to be in the running for teacher of the year. Frankly, this population makes up the majority of teachers and so we should probably focus some of our attention on them.
Since we know that great teachers can positively impact more average teachers, why don't we focus on mentoring programs and staff-led development on an ongoing basis. In all of our talk about reforming education, too many people are trying to work to totally reinvent the wheel rather than make what we have the best it can possibly be.