Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teacher Policies: How Does Your State Rate?

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama spent a fair amount of time talking about education. I was particularly pleased to hear him ask for an end to teacher-bashing, which seems to have become a national pastime. I’ll be even happier if people actually honor his request.

Obama also credited his education reform initiatives with effectively persuading states to raise academic standards. Whether Race To The Top will have a measurable, long-term effect on the quality of public education remains to be seen. But there’s clear evidence that when it comes to teacher evaluation policies, states are responding to the carrots—as well as the sticks.

The National Council on Teacher Quality has a new report out, grading states on their teacher policies (not their actual teachers). This year, 28 states saw their grades improve, “largely driven by advances in teacher evaluations, including adoption of policies for including student achievement as a measure of effectiveness, and using teacher effectiveness evidence in decisions about teacher tenure and dismissal,” according to the NCTQ.  (For the full report you can go to the NCTQ web site.)

Many of those changes are a direct result of states seeking to curry favor with the U.S. Department of Education, and to qualify for a share of more than $4 billion in competitive grants.

Leading the nation in teacher policies are Florida, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Tennessee, according to the NCTQ.  Five states — Alaska, California, Mississippi, Missouri and Montana — made no progress since the last review, in the view of NCTQ.

According to the NCTQ, there are currently 24 states that have adopted policies that incorporate “classroom effectiveness” as a measure of a teacher’s performance. Want to know just how fast this reform train is moving? Consider the fact that two years ago only 15 states and the District of Columbia required annual teacher evaluations of any kind.

Something else jumped out at me from the NCTQ report: States might be making progress on evaluating their current teacher workforce, but “they’ve done much less to ensure the quality of teachers entering the profession.” Teacher preparation programs also earned a mention in Obama’s State of the Union, and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has moved the issue to his own front burner in recent months.

Here are my questions for classroom teachers:  How often are you evaluated, and what are the criteria? Are you given specific areas to improve, along with the support to meet those demands? Do you believe merit pay should be awarded to individual teachers, or to the entire staff based on collective evidence of achievement or growth by the entire school?


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