The state should publicly report districts' distribution of teacher talent among schools to identify inequities in schools serving disadvantaged children. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.
School-level Data About Teacher Performance: Arkansas requires schools to report the total number of teachers "identified as proficient or above" under the state's evaluation system. These data are to be reported on school report cards beginning with the 2017-2018 school year.
Annual Teacher Absenteeism Rate: Arkansas does not make available annual teacher absenteeism rates reported for the previous three years, disaggregated by individual school.
Additional Data Provided: Arkansas does not provide an "Academic Quality" index for each school that includes factors such as:
Arkansas Code Ann. 6-15-1402
Report the annual teacher absenteeism rate.
Arkansas should publicly report the annual teacher absenteeism rate as a three-year average. A strong reporting system that reflects effectiveness data along with data on teacher absenteeism can lend much-needed transparency to those factors that contribute to staffing instability and inequity.
Publish other data that facilitate comparisons across schools.
Arkansas should collect and report other school-level data that reflect the stability of a school's faculty, including the percentage of first- and second-year teachers employed as teachers of record at a certain date and the percentage of teachers on emergency credentials.
Arkansas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it is developing a Workforce Stability Index that uses at a minimum the percentage of teachers who are inexperienced, out-of-field, or provisionally licensed, as well as the turnover rate at the school and district level. Also, under the proposed Rules Governing Educator Support and Development, districts will report the number of ineffective teachers as defined by the state's ESSA plan. These rules will be placed on the state board's regular meeting schedule. Further, Arkansas noted that it proposes to use a verification of educator effectiveness, as defined in the state's ESSA plan, for a future tiered licensure system to move from a first-time license to an upper-level license. These rules will also be placed on the board's regular meeting schedule.
7F: Distributing Teacher Talent Equitably
Distribution data on teachers across schools should show more than just teachers' years of experience and highly qualified status. Transparency is one of the most important tools states have to promote the equitable distribution of teachers within and across higher and lower-need schools and districts. States generally publicly report little more than what is mandated by federal requirements, which highlight years of experience and highly-qualified status. However, while teaching experience matters, the benefits of experience are largely accumulated within the first few years of teaching. School districts that try to equalize experience among all schools are overestimating its impact. There is no reason why a school with many teachers with only three or five years' experience cannot outperform a school with teachers who have an average of more than 10 years' experience.
For this reason, states need to report data that are more informative about a school's teachers. As more states require evaluation systems based primarily on teacher effectiveness, the most important distribution data that a state can make available is school-level data about teacher performance. This is not to say that individual teacher ratings should be reported, but school level data would shine an important light on whether all students have access to effective teachers.
In addition to performance data, states and districts should also track and report school-level teacher absenteeism rates. When a teacher misses ten or more days of school, the decline in student achievement is often proportionate to the differences in achievement seen between students taught by a new teacher compared to those taught by a teacher with two to three years of experience. Further, studies have found that teachers serving low income and minority students have higher absence rates, on average, which may contribute to the achievement gap. In fact, it is well-documented that these averages are not representative of the bulk of teachers, as 16 percent of teachers account for almost one-third of teacher absences.
States can also provide meaningful information by using an index for quantifying important teacher credentials found to correlate with student achievement. A good example of a strong index is the academic capital index developed by the Illinois Education Research Council, incorporating teachers' average SAT or ACT scores, the percentage of teachers failing basic skills licensure test at least once, the percentage of teachers on emergency credentials, average selectivity of teachers' undergraduate colleges, and the percentage of new teachers. These factors are complicated, so the state should install a system that translates them into something more easily understood, such as a color-coded matrix indicating a high or low score for a school.
States need to report data at the level of the individual school. Only by achieving greater stability in the staffing of individual schools can districts achieve the nation's goal of more equitable distribution of teacher quality. A strong reporting system reflecting effectiveness data and the index described above, as well as data on teacher attrition, teacher absenteeism, and teacher credentials, can lend much-needed transparency to those factors that contribute to staffing instability and inequity.
The lack of such data feeds a misconception that all high-poverty schools are similarly unable to retain staff because of their demographics. Yet, staff stability actually varies considerably across schools with similar numbers of poor and/or minority children. Within-district comparisons are crucial in order to control for as many elements specific to a district as possible, such as a collective bargaining agreement (or the district's personnel policies) and the amount of resources.