Equitable Distribution: California

2011 Identifying Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should publicly report districts' distribution of teacher talent among schools to identify inequities in schools serving disadvantaged children.

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Equitable Distribution: California results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/CA-Equitable-Distribution-8

Analysis of California's policies

Providing comprehensive reporting may be the state's most important role for ensuring the equitable distribution of teachers among schools. California reports some school-level data that can help support the equitable distribution of teacher talent among schools within districts.

California does not collect or publicly report on most of the data recommended by NCTQ. The state does not provide a school-level teacher index that demonstrates the academic backgrounds of a school's teachers. California does not report teacher absenteeism or turnover rates. 

California does report on the percentage of teachers on emergency credentials, the percentage of highly qualified teachers, teacher vacancies and teacher "misassignments." Commendably, these data are reported for each school, rather than aggregated by district. The state is also commended for comparing the percentage of highly qualified teachers at high- versus low-poverty schools for each district. California's Highly Qualified Teacher Plan, published in November 2006, reports on the disparities between the percentages of highly qualified teachers relative to poverty levels and minority populations, but the data has not been updated. 

Citation

Recommendations for California

Use a teacher quality index to report publicly about each school.
California is commended for reporting the percentage of teachers on emergency credentials, the percentage of highly qualified teachers, teacher vacancies and misassignments by school as well as comparing the percentage of highly qualified teachers at high- versus low-poverty schools. However, the state should utilize a teacher quality index with such data as teachers' average SAT or ACT scores, the percentage of teachers failing basic skills licensure tests at least once, the selectivity of teachers' undergraduate colleges and the percentage of new teachers. This can shine a light on how equitably teachers are distributed both across and within districts. California should ensure that individual school report cards should include such data in a manner that translates these factors into something easily understood by the public, such as a color-coded matrix indicating a school's high or low score.

Publish other data that facilitate comparisons across schools.
California should collect and report other school-level data that reflect the stability of a school's faculty, including the rates of teacher absenteeism and turnover.

Provide comparative data based on school demographics.
As California does with highly qualified teachers, the state should provide comparative data for schools with similar poverty and minority populations. This would yield a more comprehensive picture of gaps in the equitable distribution of teachers.

Ensure that data are current.
Although California has ensured that some of its data are up-to-date, the state should update its Highly Qualified Teacher Plan, which the state has not done since 2006.

State response to our analysis

California recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

Distribution data should show more than just teachers' years of experience and highly qualified status.

The first step in addressing the distribution of teachers is bringing transparency to the issue. States generally report little more than what is required by No Child Left Behind, which highlights years of experience and HQT 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. States can accomplish this 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 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. If collected and disaggregated to the level of the individual school, however, such data could shift the focus of districts and states toward the quality of leadership at the school level and away from the notion that instability and inequity are unavoidable consequences of poverty and race. Variations in staff stability are huge among schools with similar numbers of poor and/or minority children. School culture, largely determined by school leadership, contributes greatly to teacher morale, which in turn affects teacher success and student achievement. By revealing these variations among schools facing the same challenges, school leadership can be held accountable—and rewarded when successful.

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.

Research rationale

For comprehensive review of the literature on teacher quality and distribution, see Jennifer Rice King, "The Impact of Teacher Experience: Examining the Evidence and Policy Implications" CALDER: Urban Institute (August 2010). For more about how poor and minority children do not get their fair share of high-quality teachers, read L. Feng and T. Sass, "Teacher Quality and Teacher Mobility." National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (2011); T. Sass et al, "Value Added of Teachers in High-Poverty Schools and Lower-Poverty Schools." CALDER Institute (2010); and Education Trust, Teaching Inequality: How Poor and Minority Children are Shortchanged on Teacher Quality (Washington, DC: Education Trust, 2006).

Education Trust also produced an analysis of the first set of state Equity Plans that pointed out the inadequacies of most states' data systems to produce reliable information about teacher qualifications and experience levels in schools disaggregated by poverty and racial composition of schools. Although almost all states were required to resubmit their plans and earned approval for them, many of the shortcomings of state data systems remained. For example, few states are equipped to identify by school, teachers' years of experience, meaning they cannot identify the ratio of new teachers to the full school staff. See Education Trust, Missing the Mark: An Education Trust Analysis of Teacher-Equity Plans (Washington, DC: Education Trust, 2006).

For an example of a teacher quality index, see White, Bradford R.; Presley, Jennifer and DeAngelis, Karen J. Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois. Illinois Education Research Council: IERC 2008-1 http://ierc.siue.edu/documents/IERC2008-1.pdf.

For more about teachers' effectiveness in the early years of teaching, see Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job by Robert Gordon, Thomas J. Kane, and Douglas O. Staiger at: The Hamilton Project, http://www.brookings.edu/views/papers/200604hamilton_1.pdf (2009);

See also Jennifer Rice King, Teacher Quality: Understanding the Effectiveness of Teacher Attributes (Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2003).