State of the States: NCTQ Releases 2009 State Teacher Policy Yearbook

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On the heels of the State of the Union address, NCTQ released yesterday the 2009 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, our third annual review of what states are doing to help-and hinder-teacher quality. This year's report is a comprehensive analysis of the full range of each state's teacher policies, measured, as always, against a realistic blueprint for reform.

The release is particularly timely in light of last week's deadline for the first round of Race to the Top funding. While the national focus on teacher quality has never been greater, the Yearbook shines a light on the current status of state laws, rules and regulations that govern the teaching profession.

And the findings are bleak. States have tremendous ground to make up in areas such as teacher preparation, evaluation, tenure and dismissal, alternative certification and compensation after years of policy neglect.

The Yearbook finds that: 1)states' poor and misdirected oversight contributes to the low quality of many of the nation's teacher preparation programs; 2)the burdensome requirements of states' so called alternate routes to certification block talented individuals from entering the profession; 3)the impact of teachers on students' learning-the single most important job of a teacher-gets almost no consideration in either teachers' evaluations or decisions about tenure; 4)states are not doing enough to make it possible for districts to move away from anachronistic compensation schemes; and 5)state laws make it too difficult and too costly for districts to remove ineffective teachers.

The average overall grade awarded this year is a D, with 40 states earning a grade in the D range. Florida earned the highest overall grade, a C. Other states moving in the right direction are Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, all of which received an overall grade of C-. (It shouldn't be a surprise to see a few of the Race to the Top frontrunners among our higher scorers.) Three states (Maine, Montana and Vermont) earned an F.

This year's 52 volumes (one for each state, the District of Columbia and a national summary) extend to over 8,000 pages. Here are a few examples of what's inside:

  • States are complicit in keeping ineffective teachers in the classroom. 38 states explicitly and 8 implicitly, by unclear policies, allow multiple appeals of dismissals, taking away from those with educational expertise decisions about who stays and who goes and making it too difficult for districts to attempt to dismiss poor performers.
  • Few states' alternate routes to certification provide a genuine alternative pathway into the teaching profession. Although all but one state claim they have an alternate route, only five states offer a real alternative that provides an accelerated, responsible and flexible pathway to licensure for talented individuals.
  • States fail to exercise appropriate oversight of their teacher preparation programs. Although 46 states require teacher candidates to pass a basic skills test in order to receive a license, only 15 states make such a test a condition of admission into a teacher preparation program, with the result that programs spend too much time remediating skill deficits and not enough time preparing teachers for the classroom.
  • The 51 state Yearbook reports and the national summary are available for download at: