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TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin Newsletter



Quick look at what's inside....

The view from NCTQ
  • Silent Progress on Education
  • Florida Districts Fall Short in Implementing Performance Pay
Digging into the research
  • The Power of Productive Classroom Experience

The view from NCTQ

Silent Progress on Education

If you're anything like me, you can't help but grow really discouraged at what seems like a lack of progress toward improving public education. I'll admit there are days when I just want to throw in the towel.

I keep noticing, though, that there is actually a substantial amount of good news about American education that never seems to get any traction in either traditional or social media. I also suspect education reformers are so accustomed to calling out the bad news in order to incite action that we fail to appreciate the importance of good news. I've discussed this here previously, but feel the need to revisit as there's been a spat of generally unheralded good news.

There is new clear evidence that we are making slow, gradual gains adding up to significant change. Though you almost had to read between the lines to appreciate the genuinely good news in a recent Department of Education report, "The Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups," good news it was, indisputably. It cited the following progress:

  • Since 1992, on the fourth grade NAEP reading assessment, the White-Black score gap narrowed from 32 points to 26 points. This was not due to a drop in white scores, which went up by 8 points, but results from an even larger gain of 14 points among Black students.
  • Similarly, on the eighth grade reading NAEP, the White-Hispanic gap closed significantly from 26 to 21 points. Again, Hispanic students made larger gains than did White students (12 points compared to 7 points).
  • Since 1990, high school completion rates for young adults have gone up for all students, but most impressively for Hispanic students--increasing from 59 to 88 percent. Black students made great gains (from 83 to 92 percent), with both groups outpacing White student gains (from 90 to 95 percent).
  • The number of bachelor degrees earned by Hispanic students doubled since 2004. It went up 46 percent for Black students.
From another source altogether, a new report by Richard Whitmire for The 74/The Alumni found that some of the better-known charter organizations—including KIPP, Uncommon Schools, Achievement First, and YES Prep—are improving college graduation rates for poor kids by three to five times what our traditional public schools are doing. While charters aren't NCTQ's core issue—we're agnostic about where kids find great teachers, just as long as they find them—I am hugely impressed by this result and extend my congratulations to the thousands of teachers who worked so hard to prepare their students for college.

Advocates of education improvement need to start calling attention to these success stories so that Americans understand that progress is being made and that decades of reform are showing results. Of course I'm not arguing that it's time to declare victory and go home to rest on our laurels. We can all agree that America still has significant work ahead to raise the quality of the schooling provided to all students. And the media must share the blame as their bombardment of negative news buries the success stories. But we need to acknowledge reforms that work so we can learn from, replicate, and build on the gains they produce. 

— Kate Walsh

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Florida Districts Fall Short In Implementing Performance Pay

In 2011, Florida's legislature passed an ambitious performance pay policy that requires districts to pay their most effective teachers the district's highest annual salary awards. Recognizing the importance of this law, NCTQ has praised Florida as a national leader in performance pay in our State Teacher Policy Yearbook.

Florida's policy favoring performance over the accumulation of graduate degrees is aligned with longstanding research that demonstrates that paying teachers more for earning advanced degrees generally does not positively contribute to student learning.

Recently, we evaluated a subset of Florida's districts to determine how well they implemented this law. The discouraging results have implications that go beyond the sunshine state.

As detailed in Backing the Wrong Horse: The Story of One State's Ambitious but Disheartening Foray into Performance Pay, there is a clear disconnect between the law's intent and its implementation in 16 out of the 18 districts we studied (roughly a quarter of Florida districts). Only two districts actually pay larger salary awards to their teachers who earn the highest ratings ("Highly Effective") than to teachers who have earned master's degrees.

Across the studied districts, a teacher would, on average, need to be rated Highly Effective four years in a row to earn as much as a teacher earns in a single year for having earned a master's degree.

Despite our mostly disappointing findings, two districts—Hillsborough and Duval—were the exception to the rule. Both of these districts provide teachers with larger salary awards for being rated Highly Effective than for earning master's degrees. Hillsborough and Duval demonstrate that districts, particularly those in states with strong state policies, need not necessarily follow traditional pay schemes and can instead compensate their most effective teachers with their highest salary awards.

Although Backing the Wrong Horse only examined Florida districts, other states should pay attention to its implications. Each district in every state with a performance pay policy should review its implementation to determine whether teachers with advanced degrees earn larger salary awards than teachers with performance that is rated as more effective and, if such a disconnect occurs, take measures to correct the imbalance.

Otherwise, if Florida is any indication, districts will continue to invest significant sums of money each year in a compensation system that is not reflective of what they no doubt value most: student learning and growth.

— Elizabeth Ross

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Digging into the research

The Power of Productive Classroom Experience

Whether you're running a marathon, learning something new, or trying to improve student achievement, there's no advantage quite like a head start. Unfortunately, teacher prep programs tend to squander this precious advantage.

Recently, experts with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) released findings from a federally-funded study examining the impact of TNTP's Teaching Fellows program—a non-traditional certification route that trains teacher candidates in the summer and provides coaching and instruction during the following school year, while participants also serve as teachers in their own classrooms. Despite working under the condensed time frame, the study found that TNTP's program has produced teachers of about the same quality as those who enter the classroom through other routes, including traditional teacher prep programs.

The seven-district study compared TNTP Fellows to other teachers with similar levels of experience (all were in their first few years of teaching) and similar classrooms (in terms of student characteristics). TNTP Fellows produced similar gains in student achievement and earned similar scores on observations of their teaching practice as their colleagues who entered through other routes. To top it off, TNTP Fellows were more likely to return for a second year by a margin of 6 percentage points (78 percent vs. 72 percent).

Our takeaway from these findings is straightforward. Given that traditional preparation programs generally have a couple of years to prepare teacher candidates, there are few plausible explanations for why their candidates shouldn't then outpace by a substantial margin candidates prepared in a much shorter time-period.

While TNTP remains a relative bargain compared to other non-traditional programs, especially residencies (whose costs exclusive of stipends average $65,000 per candidate), it still carries a higher cost than what districts pay to recruit and hire a traditionally trained teacher.

If colleges approached their student teaching requirements with the same rigor and deliberateness as high-quality non-traditional certification programs, they could provide districts and prospective teachers with all the benefits of non-traditional programs and more.

To this end, NCTQ is developing a new approach to infuse more training into student teaching in order to increase the value of the experience for both teacher candidates and school districts. Future teachers will learn and practice additional key skills they need for success, and districts will be able to use student teaching as a more reliable, low-cost pipeline for recruitment and hiring of high-quality candidates. A field test of the program is taking place this fall. Look for further updates!

— Laura Pomerance

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Backing the Wrong Horse: The Story of One State's Ambitious But Disheartening Foray Into Performance Pay

Backing the Wrong Horse: The Story of One State's Ambitious But Disheartening Foray Into Performance Pay is part of the tenth annual publication in the State Teacher Policy Yearbook report...

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...

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< July 2017