Three years ago, the first few cases of COVID-19 had quietly started to spread, quickly becoming a virus that would upend the world. Since then, we have been tested in ways for which none of us had been prepared. As we now forge a new sense of normal, we seek to find our way, not back to where we were three years ago, but hopefully, to somewhere better.
This recovery will not come easily, and it will require us to question our old assumptions and to make choices that may not be easy, but that keep us laser-focused on what's best for our students. In doing so, we can move forward equipped with the best information available, so that we can help students rebuild their present and their future.
The most-read Teacher Quality Bulletin posts of 2022 reflect the questions, overturned assumptions, and trade-offs that face education leaders. And these posts offer a glimpse into the steps some states are taking to build a stronger, more diverse workforce that can help their students to process and recover from the pandemic's many traumas and to access an education that best positions them to thrive.
Top editorial of 2022
The most widely read editorial of 2022 comes from NCTQ's new leader, Dr. Heather Peske, as she asked, We wouldn't lower standards for pilot licenses — so why teachers? Just as pilots are tasked with safeguarding our safety while in the air, so too are teachers responsible for safeguarding children's educations, and thereby their futures. Dr. Peske asserted, "The lives of our children hang in the balance." Yet the response to fears of teacher shortages have been rampant calls to lower the requirements for entry into the teaching profession—denying the complexity and knowledge teachers need to succeed. Dr. Peske also challenges the proposition that teacher diversity and quality are separate or competing goals. This editorial identifies the flaws in this approach and offers better solutions that maintain guardrails for becoming a teacher while still addressing the very real staffing difficulties hindering some schools. [research]
Top research analyses of 2022
The most widely read research summaries this year provided counterpoints to assumptions about the teacher workforce.
The first, The evidence is mounting: Teacher specialization in elementary grades hurts student learning, finds that for elementary teachers, relationships with students make a big difference. And so, rather than having elementary teachers specialize in their stronger subject (math, for example) and teach that subject to multiple classes of students, it's better for them to teach all subjects and spend the additional time with only their one class of students. This benefit held especially true for "the kids who typically struggle in school—those who already achieve at lower levels, who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, English Language Learners, and students enrolled in special ed."
The second, What teachers really want: It isn't just higher salaries, offers an important reminder to the many people out there working to address teacher retention concerns. While teachers certainly deserve to be paid more, many teachers would forgo a sizeable raise if they could work in a school that provided many of the supports that take the burden off of teachers and, perhaps more importantly, support students. Teachers would prefer more school counselors, a school nurse, and in-class special education specialists, rather than having a 10% raise.
The third analysis, Best bang for your buck? Teachers' salaries are higher inside the classroom than out of it, supplies a counterpoint to analyses finding that teachers earn lower salaries than people in comparable professions. Rather than comparing people with similar characteristics, this analysis from Washington state compared teachers to others in the state with teaching credentials, looking at how much they made before or after they entered the classroom. Surprisingly, newly credentialed teachers earn quite a lot more when working as teachers than if they pursue other jobs: "One year after student teaching (which typically coincides with credentialing), the average teacher salary was roughly double that of their non-teacher counterparts." [states]
Top state trends analyses of 2022
NCTQ's pieces looking at state trends and innovative policies garnered quite a lot of interest as well.
A new path to the classroom: What could Registered Apprenticeship mean for teaching? explored Tennessee's innovative approach to recruit and prepare teachers, leveraging federal funding to make entry into the profession far more affordable and to give new teachers a leg up.
Setting sights lower: States back away from elementary teacher licensure tests examines the changes states have made to their licensure test requirements in the past year, as many states lower requirements for people to earn a teaching license. These changes come with a serious downside: this piece asserts that states "run the significant risk that these changes will mean more teachers enter the classroom without the knowledge they need to be successful."
But states have also taken bold steps to build a stronger, more diverse teacher workforce. In Four states working to close the teacher diversity gap, we explore how Minnesota, Colorado, Montana, and Oregon are acting on the research that all students, and especially students of color, benefit from learning from teachers of color. These states have set aside funds, built career pathways, and protected the jobs of aspiring and current teachers of color.
To be successful in our efforts to support students at this critical moment in time, we must continue asking the right questions and using available research and promising practices as our guideposts. We at NCTQ look forward to doing this work together with you. Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.