Teacher evaluation is a central issue when it comes to school policy.
I've seen two new and controversial ideas that have the potential to revolutionize classroom teaching, even as they're fiercely criticized.
The common link here is that neither can happen without a reliable, trustworthy, fair system of evaluating teachers. This is, of course, the unsolvable problem at the moment, the kink in the plan. Anecdotes tell you which teachers work hard (long hours? personal attention to students and families? differentiated lessons for different learners?), but this is an inexact science that might be good for finding subjects for feel-good movies and favors the teachers more adept at school politicking. The other answer so far is even scarier: standardized test scores. I don't need to go into the details on the problems there, as they are well documented. A really good question to ask is this: if you went to a top high school (and I mean elite independent, or strong AP/IB program), did you spend much time practicing for standardized tests? Or did you practice critical thinking and writing?
Anyway, the LA Times is debating this very issue on their OP/ED page:
I take it to be part of Breakthrough's mission to take tomorrow's doctors, lawyers, and Senators and encourage them to be tomorrow's teachers instead. How can I sell a career that provides only a disincentive for creative, impassioned work? In other professions, you lose or gain clients, status, and respect depending on how you perform. Teaching provides no such tie between hard work and recognition. I don't have a solution or a suggestion, but this country has a teacher problem, and it's not at the top of anyone's list.