Report: States improve teacher policies

NCTQ’s annual report finds state policies to support teacher effectiveness are no longer the exception in the U.S.

teacher-policyTeacher policies across the U.S. averaged a C- grade, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which on Dec. 8 released its ninth annual State Teacher Policy Yearbook.

The annual policy yearbook analyzes every state law, rule and regulation that shapes the teaching profession, from teacher preparation, licensing and evaluation to compensation, professional development and dismissal policy.

Across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, states average a C- for their teacher policies in 2015, up from an overall grade of D in 2009. The average state grade has held steady since NCTQ’s last comprehensive report card in 2013, despite the bar being raised on several key topics, including aligning teacher licensing policies with the expectations of college- and career-readiness standards adopted by many states.

Florida earned the highest overall teacher policy grade in the nation, a B+. Indiana, Louisiana, New York and Tennessee earned a strong grade of B for 2015. Eight other states received a B- for their efforts to adopt policies to promote effective teaching and improved student achievement. New Mexico is the most improved state on the 2015 teacher report card by earning a grade of C this year, improving on the D+ it received in every Yearbook since 2009.

At the other end of the spectrum, a handful of states remain stubbornly out of step with important teacher reform trends across the nation. Montana has consistently earned an F in the Yearbook for its record of inaction. Alaska, South Dakota and Vermont earned a D- for 2015, and California, Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Wisconsin and Wyoming all earned Ds overall.

NCTQ Senior Vice President for State and District Policy Sandi Jacobs said, “Most states still have much room for improvement, but on the whole, the glass is really starting to look half full on states’ efforts to drive teacher effectiveness through smarter policy. Evaluations of teacher effectiveness, policies tying tenure and dismissal to teacher performance, and a higher bar for teacher preparation are no longer the exception across the states.”

Key findings include:

Many states have raised teacher preparation admission requirements: Twenty-four states set a high academic bar for admission to teacher prep programs, through either GPA and/or test requirements, a major advance in policy compared to 2009 when 36 states did not require even a basic skills test for admission into teacher preparation programs.

The vast majority of states now have laws on the books requiring teacher evaluations to include objective measures of student achievement:
• Twenty-seven states require annual evaluations for all teachers in 2015, compared to just 15 states in 2009, and 45 states now require annual evaluations for all new, probationary teachers.
• Forty-three states require teacher evaluations that include measures of student achievement.
• Sixteen states include student achievement and growth as the preponderant criterion in teacher evaluations, up from only four states in 2009. An additional 19 states include growth measures as a “significant” criterion in teacher evaluations.
• In 2015, there remain just five states in the nation – California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska and Vermont – that still have no formal state policy requiring that teacher evaluations take objective measures of student achievement into account in evaluating teacher effectiveness
• In 2009, not a single state tied evidence of teacher effectiveness to decisions of consequence. In 2015, 23 states now require that tenure decisions are tied to teacher performance.
• In nine states – Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee – evidence of teacher performance is required to be the most significant criterion for granting teachers tenure or teacher contracts.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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