Teaching Quality

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OBJECTIVE: States are committed to recruiting, preparing, and supporting teachers who e primary focus is on student learning and who possess the knowledge, skills, and commitment to teach to high academic standards.

The quality of America's public schools ultimately depends on the competence and commitment of its teachers. As the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future reported last September, the single most important strategy for achieving the nation's education goals is to recruit, prepare, and support excellent teachers for every school.

We are not now doing that. School of education are not adequately preparing teachers. Bureaucratic hiring procedures frustrate their entry into the profession, and ineffective licensing systems place unqualified teachers in too many classrooms.

Studies show that teacher expertise matters. A study by Ronald F. Ferguson, a Harvard University researcher, estimates that each additional dollar spent on more highly qualified teachers nets greater gains in student performance than any other use of school resources.

Another study published by the New York City board of education compared high-achieving and low-achieving elementary schools with similar student characteristics. It found that differences in teacher qualifications accounted for more than 90% of the variation in student achievement in reading and mathematics.

But measuring teacher quality is not easy. There is no common curriculum that prospective teachers must take, no rigorous examination they must pass to how what they know and can do, no good way to measure their continued, on-the-job performance.

States license teachers, and most require teachers to pass some kind of test to receive a license. But these tests have been widely criticized as inadequate to measure teaching skill. And in many states the cutoff scores are so low that there is no effective standard for entry.

Many of the indicators needed to assess teaching are simply missing. There are no good measures of the percent of teachers engaged in ongoing professional development. There are no measures to describe the quality of student-teaching experiences or of teacher-induction programs.

In trying to evaluate what states are doing to raise the quality of teaching, we have relied upon the best indicator available.

In the past few years, there has been a concerted effort to make teaching a true profession that would attract the best and brightest. Today, that infrastructure is almost in place. It includes rigorous national accreditation standards for the schools that prepare teachers, state licensing based on a teacher's demonstrated knowledge and skill, and professional certification for high-quality, veteran teachers.

The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future refers to this infrastructure--of accreditation, licensing, and professional certification--as the three-legged stool on which all professions are built. And we have chosen to give it particular weight in our report because we agree it is an important and promising strategy. But we also acknowledge that there is currently no hard evidence that it will produce teachers of higher quality.

The one measure that we have of teacher quality that has been consistently associated with student achievement is whether teachers have a degree in the subject that they teach. For this reason, we also have given this a heavy weight in our scoring system. We realize that it is not an ideal measure of teacher quality. But it is one of the best now available. And states have the power to design policies to ensure that teachers do not teach out of their fields of expertise.


Adequately Prepared Teachers. We have based 30% of a state's final grade on four measures that the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future has identified as particularly important for developing an adequately prepared and competent teaching force. The first two measures are worth 10% each; the last two measures are worth 5% each.

1. Percent of new teacher graduates from education schools accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. You would never go to a physician who had not graduated from a fully accredited school of medicine. Yet most states do not require their schools of education to be accredited. Only about 500 of the nation's 1,200 education schools have met common professional standards, developed by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. NCATE accreditation is one leg of the three-legged stool that the national commission identifies as necessary to guarantee teacher quality. The percentages in this column are from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which tracks about 90% of the nation's prospective teachers.

2. Incentives for teachers to seek national board certification. Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards provide the single best indicator that a veteran teacher has met rigorous standards of quality. This is the second leg in the national commission's three-legged stool. For more than seven years, the national board has worked to develop standards for what teachers should know and be able to do in virtually every academic subject at various grade levels, as well as assessments to certify mastery. The board began offering assessments in 1994. But the process for becoming certified is both arduous and expensive. By last September, fewer than 400 teachers nationwide had been certified. The national commission sets a goal of certifying 105,000 teachers by 2006, or one for every public and private school in the United States. That goal will not be reached unless states provide teachers with an incentive to seek certification, such as paying the required fees or setting higher salary levels for board-certified teachers. In our survey, more than 70% of teachers and principals and 55% of superintendents agree that states should provide financial incentives to encourage teachers to eek certification from the national board. In scoring this column, we gave an A, or 100%, to states that provided a financial incentive to teachers or modified their licensing requirements to provide some benefits to board-certified teachers. We gave a C, or 75%, to states that have taken no action.

3. State belongs to Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium. This consortium of more than 30 states and professional organizations has created a set of standard for licensing beginning teachers based on their performance. It is developing new examinations that measure those standards. The standards are compatible with national board standards but are designed for those just entering the profession. This is the third leg in the national commission's three-legged stool for ensuring teacher quality. States that pay to participate in this group score an A, or 100%. Those that do not score a C, or 75%.

4. State contributes to INTASC's development of rigorous assessments for teacher licensure. This is the subset of states that are working with INTASC to develop portfolio and test of teacher knowledge, based on the consortium's standard for licensing new teachers. States that belong to this project get an A, or 100%. Those that do not get a C, or 75%.

Degree in Subject Area. In selecting and scoring our indicator of teacher quality, we have based 25% of a state's final grade on the percent of secondary school teachers who hold a degree in the subject that they teach.

5. Percent of secondary teachers who hold a degree in the subject that they teach. Teachers cannot teach what they do not know. Studies show a correlation between teacher knowledge and student achievement. An analysis by the U.S. Department of Education found that 8th graders who e teachers had undergraduate degrees in mathematics scored, on average, 11 points higher on the AEP math assessment than students who e teachers had degrees in other fields. Yet currently, more than 20% of math students and 30% of chemistry students have teachers who never earned degrees in those subjects. In our own survey, 82% of teachers, 83% of principals, and 74% of superintendent agreed that states should strengthen their licensing procedures so that only individuals who demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to teach challenging subject matter will be licensed to teach or have their licenses renewed. The percentages in this column include secondary teachers in math, science, English, social studies, the fine arts, foreign languages, or special education, as well as special education teachers at the elementary level.

Additional Indicators. We have based the other 45% of a state's final grade on the following eight indicators, all of which were given equal weight:

6. Percent of teachers who have a temporary, emergency, or no license. More than 12% of all newly hired "teachers" enter classrooms without any training at all, and 14% enter without having fully met state standards, according to the national commission. In recent years, more than 50,000 people have entered teaching annually on emergency or substandard licenses. If teaching is to become a genuine profession, this practice must stop. In our survey, 69% of teachers, 59% of principals, and 44% of superintendents agreed that states should not grant waivers or provisional license to individuals who have not completed the necessary college coursework required for certification. The percentages in this column are of the total teaching force in the state. To score this indicator, we gave a state credit for those teachers who had alternate, provisional, regular, or advanced certification by subtracting the percentage shown here from 100% of the total teaching force.

7. State requires a college major in a subject other than education for initial teacher licensure. Parents and children have a right to have classes taught by teachers who are expert in the disciplines they teach. Yet today, about 30% of secondary math teachers do not have a college major in mathematics. According to our survey, 90% of teachers and 89% of principals and superintendents agreed that teachers should not be permitted or required to teach indefinitely in subject areas for which they have not been trained. About 90% of teachers and principals and 91 % of superintendents surveyed agreed that states should require high school teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree in the field they teach. States have a responsibility to ensure that 100% of teacher have majored in the content fields they will teach. States that require a subject-matter major to earn a teaching license for both secondary and elementary school teachers get an A, or 100%. Those that do not require a major get an F, or 50%.

8. Independent professional-standards board has been established in the state. The national commission argues that licensing standards in most other professions are determined by the members of that profession. Yet only 12 states have such boards for teaching. Professional-standards boards, which include teachers as members, establish and uphold standards to enter and continue teaching. They also set and enforce ethical standards. States that have an independent teacher-certification board get an A, or 100%. Those that do not get a C, or 75%.

9. State requires schools of education to incorporate the K-12 content standards into their curriculum. High academic standards for what students should know and be able to do will have no impact unless tomorrow's teachers are equipped to teach to those standards. States can ensure that this happens by requiring schools of education to reflect the K-12 standards in the design of their programs. States that have this requirement get an A. or 100%. Those that do not get an F, or 50%.

10. State requires courses in educational technology for teacher licensure. Technology is rapidly changing the world in which we and our children live. The national commission writes, "Of all the things schools could spend money on, teachers and technology are the areas that are likely to offer the greatest payoffs." Yet only 10% of new teachers in 1994 felt they were prepared to integrate new technologies into their instruction. States can help teachers to prepare to use these new tools by requiring some preparation in educational technology to receive a teaching license. States that have this requirement for elementary school teachers, secondary school teachers, or both, get an A, or 100%. Those that do not get a C, or 75%.

11. Number of weeks state requires for student teaching. The national commission recommends that prospective teachers participate in a yearlong internship in a "professional development school"--a public school specifically designed to support the preparation of new teachers. So far, few states have restructured teacher education to include such extended internships. A minimum of 12 weeks of student teaching represents a positive first step, according to the commission. (Although it does not reflect the quality of that experience.) States that meet this requirement get an A. or 100%. States that require fewer than 12 weeks get a C, or 75%. Those that do not set any requirement get an F, or 50%.

12. State requires and funds new-teacher-induction program. Allowing new teachers to sink or swim in the classroom is not working. It contributes to high attrition rates and low levels of teacher effectiveness. Studies have found that beginning teachers who receive mentoring and support focus on student learning much sooner, become more effective as teachers, and leave teaching at lower rates. States that require and fund induction programs for new teacher get an A, or 100%. States that are piloting or partially implementing such measures or that have such initiatives pending get a C, or 75 %. Those that are doing nothing get an F, or 50%.

13. Percent of teachers participating in 1994 professional-development activities who received some form of support. The world has changed rapidly since many of today's teachers first entered the profession. Yet most school districts invest little in ongoing education for experienced teachers. The national commission estimates that between 1% and 3% of a school district's operating budget is spent on the continuing education of teachers, even when the costs of staff time are factored in. In our survey, 98% of teachers, 96% of principals, and 86% of superintendents agreed that states should provide teachers with the time and resources to participate in staff-development activities that are designed to improve their teaching and to increase their professionalism. This column gives states credit for the percent of teachers who engaged in professional-development activities and received support for their efforts. Support was defined to include scheduled or released time, travel or tuition expenses, or professional-growth credits.

For Information Only. 14. State requires assessment for teaching license.>/i> Teachers should demonstrate their knowledge and skill before they are allowed to enter the classroom. Today, most states require individuals to pass a test to receive a teaching license. But the tests are so weak and unchallenging, and the cutoff points for passing are so low, that this indicator says virtually nothing about a state's commitment to teaching quality. The National Teacher Examination is being revised to include a performance component that will require teachers to demonstrate their teaching skills. But only 30% of the nation's school districts require candidates to pass the examination. How the new performance requirement will affect the use of the NTE remains to be seen.

15. Percent of teachers who had at least nine hours of training in educational technology in 1994. Today's students must be able to use technology to access information and to function in the modern economy. Yet fewer than half of veteran teachers have participated in professional development on the use of new technologies. We think professional development in educational technology is important. But there is no way to tell how much overlap there is between the percentages represented in this column and the next two. Thus, we have no way of calculating the percent of the total teaching staff that is involved in ongoing professional development in any given year. That is the indicator we would really like to score. In addition, these figures tell us nothing about the quality of these professional-development efforts.

16. Percent of teachers who had at least nine hours of training in subject-matter teaching methods in 1994. Teachers should remain up to date in the subjects that they teach and how best to teach them.

17. Percent of teachers who had at least nine hours of training in student assessment in 1994. To reflect the full range of students' knowledge and skills, state and school districts are moving away from fill-in-the-bubble, multiple-choice tests to richer and more varied measure of student learning. Teachers need to know how to use these new assessments, such as student portfolios, in their classrooms and how to core and interpret the results.

Vol. 16, Issue 17S, Page 40-41

Published in Print: January 22, 1997, as Teaching Quality
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