Equitable Distribution: Massachusetts

2015 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
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Equitable Distribution: Massachusetts results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MA-Equitable-Distribution-71

Analysis of Massachusetts's policies

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

Massachusetts requires districts to publicly report aggregate school-level data about teacher performance. The state is also required to report the summative performance ratings for teachers, aggregated to the school level, as well as teachers' impact ratings as they become available. 

Massachusetts also reports on the percentage of highly qualified teachers. These data are reported for each school, rather than aggregated by district. Further, the state also compares the percentage of highly qualified teachers in high- and low-poverty schools. 

Massachusetts's most recent Equity Plan was approved by the U.S. Department of Education in August 2015. The state's plan appears to continue to address the components outlined in this goal.

Citation

Recommendations for Massachusetts

Ensure that school-level teacher effectiveness data is meaningful to the public.
Massachusetts is commended for requiring districts to provide evaluation ratings and for making these data available to the public. However, as noted in the "Evaluation of Effectiveness" analysis, because the summative performance rating is reported separately from the impact rating, these data may be challenging for the public to interpret.





State response to our analysis

Massachusetts was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state noted that its Equity Plan provides data comparing the percentage of classes taught by highly qualified teachers in high- and low-poverty and high- and low-minority schools, and also compares the proportion of other categories of teachers, such as first-year teachers and teachers rated ineffective in their summative performance ratings. 

Massachusetts added that the upcoming Equity webpage on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website includes on its landing page, as well as in other areas of the site, a list of links that readers can use to find data on equity gaps, organized by 1) gaps in access to experienced educators, 2) gaps in access to prepared educators (including those with highly qualified status) and 3) gaps in access to effective educators. Some of these data sources are available to the general public and some only to specific school and district personnel.

How we graded

Research rationale

Distribution data 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 report publicly little more than what is mandated by federal requirements, which highlights 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 the absence of teacher performance data that reflect evidence of student learning, states can still 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/or 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 considerable 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.

Equitable Distribution: Supporting Research
For comprehensive review of the literature on teacher quality and distribution, see Jennifer King Rice, "The Impact of Teacher Experience: Examining the Evidence and Policy Implications", Calder Institute, August 2010, Brief 11. 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.", Calder Institute, Working Paper 57, January 2011; T. Sass, J. Hannaway, Z. Xu, D. Figlio, and L. Feng, "Value Added of Teachers in High-Poverty Schools and Lower-Poverty Schools," Calder Institute, Working Paper 52, November 2010; and Education Trust, Teaching Inequality: How Poor and Minority Students are Shortchanged on Teacher Quality (Washington, DC: Education Trust, June 6, 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: States' Teacher Equity Plans Fall Short (Washington, DC: Education Trust, August 10, 2006).

For an example of a teacher quality index, see B. White, J. Presley, and K. DeAngelis, Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois, Illinois Education Research Council, Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1, 44 p.; http://www.siue.edu/ierc/publications/pdf/IERC2008-1.pdf.

For more about teachers' effectiveness in the early years of teaching, see Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job by R. Gordon, T. Kane, and D. Staiger at: The Hamilton Project, http://www.brookings.edu/views/papers/200604hamilton_1.pdf, April 2006; See also Jennifer King Rice, Teacher Quality: Understanding the Effectiveness of Teacher Attributes (Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2003).