Article Archive

TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin Newsletter



Quick look at what's inside....

The view from NCTQ
  • State ESSA plan whack-a-mole
  • Dallas pay for performance initiative producing positive results
Digging into the research
  • A bright spot for PD—new teacher induction that works

The view from NCTQ

State ESSA plan whack-a-mole

Ever play the carnival game of whack-a-mole? Every time you smash one mole back into its hole, two more pop back up. That's how NCTQ's analysts feel right now with states' plans to close educator equity gaps under the ESSA. However, what's at stake here is not a cheap stuffed animal prize, but the access that some of our most vulnerable students have to strong teachers.

Among the 34 state plans we reviewed this fall, too many permit continued discrimination against low-income students and students of color by failing to ensure that these students have equitable access to effective, experienced, and in-field teachers; that is, to those teachers who are most likely to contribute to these students' academic learning and growth.

This past spring, we analyzed states' plans to meet ESSA's educator equity requirements for the first 17 state plans submitted to the United States Department of Education for peer review and approval. We discovered these plans to be a real mixed bag, displaying strengths but also significant opportunities for improvement. Our spring analyses spotlighted specific components of state work worth replicating, but also noted numerous areas where states missed the mark.

Unfortunately, the plans of the remaining 34 states address few of the common flaws noted in our prior review. Instead of emulating the promising practices among the first 17 state plans and adapting suggestions for improvement, as appropriate based on local context and need, we found that an even greater percentage of the ESSA state plans that we analyzed this fall fell short.

Although plans alone are insufficient to change students' daily in-school experience, language matters. A state's ESSA plan sets forth its understanding of the current status of education within its state and the steps it intends to take to address any shortcomings that are preventing all students from reaching their maximum potential.

Yet, among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, fewer than half of states define "inexperienced teacher" based on research demonstrating that teacher effectiveness increases substantially after two years in the classroom. And only seven states include sufficiently detailed and rigorous timelines and interim targets for eliminating their identified educator equity gaps. Such measures are important to help ensure that states and stakeholders are able to hold themselves accountable for monitoring, assessing, and -- ultimately -- eliminating any existing educator equity gaps.

Despite these flaws, we are pleased to acknowledge and celebrate states from our fall review with plans that contain some strong elements. For example, many state plans include promising strategies to eliminate existing educator equity gaps, including Florida's ESSA state plan which leverages a state law that prevents any Florida student from being taught by an ineffective teacher for two years in a row.

Other states, including South Carolina and Ohio, are calculating and reporting educator equity gaps using, among other data, student-level data, which enable these states to determine whether there are any educator equity gaps existing within a specific school.

Additionally, Kentucky and New York go above the beyond the statutory requirements to calculate and report educator equity gaps for additional student groups: students with disabilities and English learners. Calculating and reporting the extent to which these vulnerable student populations are taught by ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers enables these states to take steps to address additional educator inequities that may exist within the state, beyond those required by the statute.

Nevertheless, overall, we are forced to conclude states have largely shirked their responsibility to prevent low-income students and students of color from being disproportionately taught by ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers.

Fortunately, there is still time for states to improve their plans. We hope that states will carefully review and consider our analyses, which highlight specific opportunities for each state to strengthen its plan. More can and must be done to ensure that all students have equitable access to effective, experienced, and in-field teachers.

— Elizabeth Ross

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Dallas pay for performance initiative producing positive results

NCTQ has long supported teacher pay for performance in school districts. Better pay can encourage the best teachers to stay in the classroom and prompt talented people to enter the profession knowing they will be rewarded for their achievements.

In 2015, Dallas became the largest school district to adopt performance pay instead of a traditional salary schedule. Results out this month reveal that three years into this program, the district has achieved impressive gains.

The district is reporting improvement in teacher retention, keeping 86 percent of its teachers compared to 83 percent statewide, but most critically, with the most effective teachers having the highest retention rates. Meanwhile, half of those at the lowest effectiveness rating left--also key.

In addition, the district has been able to reduce the number of schools with a low rating from the state from 43 down to 14 campuses. And Dallas' graduation rate has grown significantly, from 83 percent to 88 percent between 2012 and 2017.

While it is unlikely that all these achievements can be attributed to teacher pay reforms, we see signs of smoke, even though we cannot yet say there is fire.

— Sam Lubell

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Digging into the research

A bright spot for PD—new teacher induction that works

Districts spend on average $18,000 per teacher every year on professional development, with little to show for it. That's why we were excited to see the new research findings looking at the New Teacher Center's induction model--most teachers' first experience with professional development. A recent study found that the New Teacher Center's approach resulted in up to five months of additional learning. Remarkable!

But there's a real puzzle here to be solved. While student outcomes--what matters most--showed tremendous gains, teachers' observation ratings did not. Other than there not being enough observations conducted to detect differences, one explanation may be the instrument used to observe the teachers, that being the tried and true Danielson Framework. It may be time to revisit those indicators to ensure that they align with student outcomes at the earliest stages of a teacher's career.

Here are the attributes of the NTC approach that yielded dramatic learning gains:

First off, significant time is dedicated to building districts' capacity to support the induction model. Mentors are carefully selected and intensively trained to assess their teachers, and instructed to meet with each mentee for at least 180 minutes a month and focus on instruction during that time.

Most striking was the program's significant investment in mentor training--with a requirement of 100 hours of training for each mentor teacher for two years. Could that be the secret sauce?

The big question left isn't if districts should use this model, but if they can afford it. The cost to implement the program is just $500-$900 per new teacher for the New Teacher Center's services, but that doesn't include the districts' costs for the mentor teachers and any associated stipends or salaries. These line items could run a district $5,600-$8,000 for a fully-released mentor per teacher, depending on the local salary scale (credit to NTC for providing us with these estimates). Our bottom line is that if these outcomes are consistently replicated, the costs are without question fully defensible.

— Sarah Brody

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ESSA Educator Equity Analyses

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)'s analyses of states' plans for ensuring that low-income and minority students are not disproportionately taught by ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers under the...

Lifting the Pension Fog: What teachers and taxpayers need to know about the teacher pension crisis

This report, Lifting the Pension Fog: What teachers and taxpayers need to know about the teacher pension crisis, evaluates state teacher pension policies, and includes policy profiles and tailored recommendations...

Running in Place: How New Teacher Evaluations Fail to Live Up to Promises

Running in Place: How New Teacher Evaluations Fail to Live Up to Promises is part of the tenth annual publication in the State Teacher Policy Yearbook report series. This report...

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< October 2017