2010 State Teacher Policy Yearbook: Blueprint for Change

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NCTQ has just released its fourth 52-volume State Teacher Policy Yearbook: Blueprint for Change, in which we review what states do to help and hinder teacher policies. As it is our "off-year" edition, intended to supplement the 2009 Yearbook, states were granted a reprieve on grades. But not to worry--new grades will be assigned next year when we return with the back-breaking full edition.

Riding in the wake of a year noteworthy for an uncharacteristic level of state activity, thanks in large part to Race to the Top, states made significant progress in teacher laws, rules and regulations. For example, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island all passed new legislation or regulations that base teacher evaluation, tenure, and dismissal decisions on teacher effectiveness.

Other areas of significant change between this year and last include:

But states still have a long way to go to ensure that all students are taught by effective teachers, perhaps leaving policymakers nonplussed as to where to begin. Each state's Blueprint identifies specific critical attention areas, giving them a place to get started when it comes to improving policies that impact the teaching profession. The critical attention areas we identified fall into four key problem areas:

  • Performance management policies disconnected from teacher effectiveness
  • Vague and/or weak guidelines for teacher preparation
  • Licensure requirements that do not ensure teachers have appropriate content knowledge
  • Obstacles that prevent expansion of the teacher pipeline

As much as work got done last year, there is a lot more to do. More than half of the states haven't touched most of the policies in these areas and seven states (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon) haven't touched any. Massachusetts has the least work to do, still needing to address the third area.

And speaking of Massachusetts, it's the only state that even appears to set a passing score that means anything on the content test required of its elementary teacher candidates. As the figure below shows, most states set the passing score for this test sufficiently below the average score of all test takers as to call into question their rationale for giving the test.

In addition to critical attention areas, this year's Blueprint also identifies low-hanging fruit. This set of policy changes represent what the metaphor implies: attainable, smaller policy changes that could have big results (or at least be an important step in the right direction), as well as larger, systemic reforms that states should keep on their radar screen as they move forward (i.e. pension reform).

State reports and a national summary are now available for download at www.nctq.org/stpy.