TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Boston Public Schools making strides in human capital policies

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Way back in 2010, NCTQ released Human Capital in Boston Public Schools: Rethinking How to Attract, Develop and Retain Effective Teachers in partnership with the Massachusetts Alliance for Business Education. The typical life span of such a report might be about a year or two— yet five years later, we're learning it still has considerable legs, largely due to the leadership of Boston's top-notch interim superintendent, John McDonough

While the report found many strengths in the district, it raised real concerns about such areas as teacher evaluations and transfer and hiring processes. Evaluations were inconsistent and the district's professional development was not aligned with evaluation outcomes. In 2012-2013, Boston not only revised the instrument (which every school district loves to do) but also the training and the frequency of evaluations. In the first year of the new system, 93 percent of teachers received an evaluation compared to less than 23 percent in 2009. The district continues to analyze patterns in evaluation outcomes and provide more support where needed, refining the system each year.

 The district didn't stop there. It no longer requires principals to hire teachers who have transferred from other schools, giving principals the autonomy to hire teachers they believe will best serve students. Excessed teachers who don't find a position are given a coach and assigned to a co-teaching position with an exemplary teacher in a high-performing school. The roughly $6 million required to pay for these teachers is considered part of the cost of doing business.

In addition, Boston now has a goal of hiring 75 percent of its new teachers in March and April, rather than hiring the bulk of new teachers in the summer months. This earlier hiring timeline gives the district access to a larger group of prospective teachers in a particularly competitive hiring environment and allows them to hire highly-sought-after candidates before other districts. In 2013, Boston hired just 9 percent of teachers by the end of June. For the 2014-2015 school year, the district reports hiring 83 percent of new teachers before July 1. In addition, they report that early hiring has allowed them to employ the most racially diverse cohort of effective educators in more than six years.

This winter, the district worked with the Boston Teachers Union to reach an agreement to extend the school day by 40 minutes, giving both teachers and students more time and putting another NCTQ recommendation into place. In addition to providing students the equivalent of an additional month of school, the extra time nearly doubles the amount of planning and development time available to teachers.

Boston, you are making us proud.