Yearbook 2011: Who's up a lot, who's up a little, and who's not up at all

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Last week, NCTQ released its 5th annual, 52-volume, 9,000-page compendium examining the state of the states on their policies to promote teacher quality, the State Teacher Quality Yearbook. We're tempted to say "phew" and leave it at that.

Why 52 volumes? We ask ourselves that question each time we put one of these things out. Yet there's just too much evidence that it's worth it. States have grown used to national reports, pretty much shrugging them off. It's a lot harder to ignore a big book that's all about you.

Demand alone speaks to the efficacy of this strategy. In the week since the Yearbook was released, there have been more than 300,000 downloads from our website, three times higher than the last full edition we put out in 2009. The downloads for the Florida edition alone--the state with the highest grade--stand at 90,000. We feel confident that those downloads will translate into lots of action.

How did states fare? Bottom line: Better.

28 states' overall grade—based on 36(!) soup-to-nuts standards--improved from the 2009 review. 7 states--Florida, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio--received the highest teacher quality grades we've ever handed out.

The dramatic improvements in some states' teacher policy grades were largely driven by their having tackled teacher evaluation.

Why didn't states like Colorado or Louisiana--two states that enacted major legislation--show bigger progress? The Yearbook casts a much wider net than just evaluation; our 36 goals cover all aspects of the teaching profession. (We also moved the goalposts on a few goals, plus we added 7 new goals.)

The states with the highest grades have begun to make connections between teacher evaluation and the host of policies--including compensation, professional development and mentoring--that could improve teacher practice and retention of the most effective teachers, but all states have a long, long way to go.

And even states which made major progress on evaluation and dismissals have yet to touch a lot of other key areas of teacher policy. The area where the least progress has been made is teacher preparation. States averaged the grade of D in this area.

Two exceptions are Indiana and Minnesota, both of which have focused on teacher preparation, and not coincidentally, received the highest rankings for making the most progress since 2009.

For a full overview of what is the encyclopedia of teacher effectiveness policy, see our national summary or download any one of the 51 state reports. You can also purchase a hard copy (at our cost) if you want to save some wear and tear on your printer.