The methodology used to develop and analyze the 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, NCTQ's fifth annual comprehensive examination of state policies governing the teaching profession, is consistent with the methodology used in previous editions of the Yearbook.
The Yearbook goals were developed in consultation with NCTQ's Board of Directors and distinguished Advisory Board. The original 27 Yearbook goals (included in the 2007 State Teacher Policy Yearbook) were sent out for comment to more than 100 groups and individuals, including education policy groups, foundations, academics economists, and national education organizations, some of which have perspectives quite different from ours.
NCTQ strives to maintain consistency in Yearbook goals from year to year. However, as our knowledge and experience has grown, so too have the goals evolved and changed with the times. Since 2007, NCTQ has streamlined and reconfigured some goals and added others. The 2011 Yearbook includes 36 goals consistent with the core policy objective of ensuring that all students have effective teachers. Each new goal was based on input and feedback from the same stakeholders who helped shape our initial goals.
In recognition of the value that comes from tracking progress, this year, the Yearbook includes not only grades for the states in the five key teacher policy goal areas, but also progress indicators for each of 29 goals that NCTQ has measured from 2009 to 2011, as well as an overall progress ranking for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The progress measures capture policy changes in a state that moves the state closer to (or further away from) meeting Yearbook goals. State progress is calculated based on changes in policies, not changes in grades. That is, a state may make policy changes (acknowledged in the Yearbook as progress) which are not, on their own, significant enough to change a state's grade in a positive or negative direction.
Finally, consistent with a standards-based reform approach, and with many states making considerable progress in advancing teacher effectiveness policy since NCTQ began the Yearbook project, 2011 was the time to "move the goal post" higher in several policy areas—such as teacher evaluation and licensure advancement—where what was once good enough in an emerging policy area is no longer noteworthy practice. Our efforts to raise the bar where state policy has moved forward over time in meaningful ways are clearly indicated throughout the report volumes and summarized in the national overview report. States are held harmless on any progress indicators where expectations for state policies to meet the goal were raised in 2011.
Most important to the ongoing development and refining of the Yearbook goals is our consultation and communication with the states themselves. Their feedback and willingness to engage in dialogue is, as always, invaluable.
NCTQ's analyses are rooted in reviews of official state policies. Specifically, NCTQ defines policies as state laws, regulations, statutes, administrative code and state board of education and/or teacher licensing commission rulings. NCTQ took great care to utilize the most recent policies, seeking multiple sources to validate that the policies we cite as the basis for our analyses are current.
Policies enacted after November 2011 are not reflected in this edition of the Yearbook.
NCTQ's analysis of state policy does not include state proposals for teacher reform, including policy proposals included in state grant requests. For example, the 2010 Race to the Top (RTT) competition spurred unprecedented action among the states to secure a share of $4 billion. A significant portion of the competition focused on state efforts to improve teacher and principal effectiveness. As a result, there are some promising proposals in the states for rethinking how teachers should be evaluated, compensated, promoted, granted tenure and dismissed based on their overall effectiveness in the classroom. However, the Yearbook focuses on policy, not promises. Unless such proposals have translated into actual changes in state laws and regulations, they are not reflected in this analysis.
For the most part, the Yearbook also does not assess states on the quality of policy implementation. Much could be said about what states do or do not do with the laws and regulations that they approve. Analyses may comment on what appears to be a little-used or poorly implemented policy, but these observations do not determine a state's rating. The Yearbook reflects policy, not practice.
NCTQ's commitment to states is fairness and full collaboration on the Yearbook project. States were sent a draft of the 2011 Yearbook analyses in July 2011. For each goal, states were asked to verify the accuracy of NCTQ's analysis, and given an opportunity to respond. Those responses are included in the published reports. Regardless of whether state officials agreed with the goals that NCTQ articulated, most states proved consistently responsive and helpful in providing information, suggestions and citations. Their collaboration was essential. States were provided with their final analysis one month before the release of the Yearbook. To the extent possible, even comments resulting from this late-hour review were incorporated.
How to Read the Yearbook
NCTQ rates state teacher policy in several ways.
For each of the 36 individual teacher policy goals, states receive two ratings. The first rating indicates whether, or to what extent, a state has met the goal. NCTQ uses these familiar graphics to indicate the extent to which each goal has been met:
A new feature of this year's Yearbook is a progress rating for each goal NCTQ has measured over time. These ratings are intended to give states a meaningful sense of the changes in teacher policy since the 2009 Yearbook was published. Using the symbols below, NCTQ determines whether each state has advanced on the goal, if the state policy has remained unchanged, or if the state has actually lost ground on that topic.
Some goals are marked with this symbol , which indicates that the bar has been raised for this goal since the 2009 Yearbook. With many states making considerable progress in advancing teacher effectiveness policy, NCTQ raised the standards for some goals where the bar had been quite low. As this may have a negative impact on some states' scores, those goals are always marked with the above symbol.
States receive grades in the five goal areas under which the 36 goals are organized: 1) delivering well prepared teachers; 2) expanding the pool of teachers; 3) identifying effective teachers; 4) retaining effective teachers and 5) exiting ineffective teachers. States also receive an overall grade that summarizes state performance across the five goal areas, giving an overall perspective on how states measure up against NCTQ benchmarks. New this year, states also receive an overall progress ranking, indicating how much progress each state has made compared to other states.
As always, the Yearbook provides a detailed narrative accounting of the policy strengths and weaknesses in each policy area for each state and for the nation as a whole. Best practices are highlighted. The reports are also chock full of reader-friendly charts and tables that provide a national perspective on each goal and serve as a quick reference on how states perform relative to one another, goal by goal.
Another new feature this year makes it easier to distinguish strong policies from weaker ones on our charts and tables. The policies NCTQ considers strong practices or the ideal policy positions for states are capitalized. This provides a quick thumbnail for readers to size up state policies against the policy option that aligns with NCTQ benchmarks for meeting each policy goal. For example, on the chart below, "BEFORE ADMISSION TO PREP PROGRAM" is capitalized, as that is the optimal timing for testing teacher candidates' academic proficiency.