School & District Management

Group Offers Broad, Critical Review of State Policy on Teacher Quality

By Bess Keller — June 27, 2007 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The policies that states use to govern the teaching profession are outdated, both too inflexible and not rigorous enough, and often privilege the interests of teachers over those of students, an encyclopedic review of state regulations of the field released today concludes.

The review grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia in six areas of policy, for a total of more than 1,300 grades, but finds no state worthy of more than two B’s. Most earned a mix of C’s, D’s, and F’s.

Tied for best-performing states were Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Texas, but the reviewers still considered them “weak.” Alaska and Maine were tied for worst, followed by Montana, Nebraska, Hawaii, and Oregon.

Three years in the making, the report is the work of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington advocacy and research organization that has championed higher standards for teachers, especially as determined by test scores and linked to individual rewards. The group intends to update annually its State Teacher Policy Yearbook, which includes an extensive review of each state’s policies, including recommendations for improvement.

Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report covers some of the same teacher-policy ground.

Among the conclusions drawn in the report:

• Only 17 states require teacher-preparation programs to make basic-skills testing a condition of admission, and only three require teachers to pass a test of minimal professional knowledge before entering a classroom. Twenty states give teachers up to three years to pass a professional-competency test.

• Just 14 states require annual evaluations of teachers, and only four specify that classroom effectiveness should be the preponderent criterion.

• Only six states offer “genuine” alternative routes into the profession for those already holding a bachelor’s degree, meaning standards for entry are higher than for traditional programs, requirements are individualized, and the distribution of work is manageable for someone already in the classroom.

• Just 18 states collect “meaningful” numerical data on how well the graduates of teacher-preparation programs do, such as their students’ test scores. The lack of such data, the authors say, limits states’ ability to hold programs accountable.

• Twenty-three states attach “a lot of strings” before giving an out-of-state teacher an equivalent license.

The review is particularly hard on policies regarding special education teachers. Those policies, it contends, “reflect a view that [such] teachers are little more than behavior managers and do not have to deliver actual instruction to children.” In general, the report says, states continue to neglect many teachers’ subject-matter preparation, despite progress made on that front because of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The review also faults states for doing little to alleviate the shortage of mathematics and science teachers, which often results in shortchanging the neediest children of teachers qualified in those fields. For instance, according to the report, just over half the states—28—support paying teachers in shortage areas more.

BRIC ARCHIVE

Kate Walsh, the president of NCTQ, acknowledged that the report does not address the actual quality of teachers in a state, since many factors beyond policy influence that. “But state policy can make good teachers better and poor teachers abysmal,” she argued.

Noting that state education departments have had several chances to see and respond to the reviews, she said she hoped the yearbook would lead to further collaboration with the states. “We’re not saying that if states just do the 27 things we say, everything will be perfect,” Ms. Walsh added. “We want a conversation. We’ve put forward some fairly good models of how those [policy] reforms should occur.”

Moving the Field Backwards?

The yearbook has already begun to face sharp criticism, however, in part because the grades and recommendations are predicated on those models. The goals they are intended to meet were set with the help of a 35-plus-member advisory group that includes former school superintendents, teachers, education business leaders, and state education officials, among others. Yet most of the panel, including economist Eric A. Hanushek and Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp, have struck off in directions different from those trod by university-based teacher education programs or the teachers’ unions.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, for example, fired off a two-page rebuttal this week, arguing that the NCTQ’s recommendation to keep professional accreditation and state approval of teacher-preparation programs separate “would move teaching backward three decades. … Professional accreditation has been a substitute for state approval in most professions for the past 50 to 100 years,” the statement from the Washington-based accrediting body said.

C. Emily Feistritzer, the president of the National Center for Alternative Certification, also in Washington, questioned the value of toting up facts about such programs across the nation, in part because they are ever-changing and in part because she believes the existing setup is working. “We really do have a truly market-driven phenomenon, and … if the programs don’t meet the needs of candidates and of the districts who need them, then they are dead,” she contended.

Alaska’s state schools chief responded with surprise to the news that his state had gotten a D from the NCTQ in teacher licensure. “We’re probably more innovative than the vast majority of states on teacher licensure, and … we’re one of the few to require that pedagogy is at the same level as content knowledge,” Roger Sampson said about the system that was put in place starting in 2005-06. It requires teachers to submit videotapes of their teaching to earn passage from the beginning level of licensure to the “professional” level.

Mr. Sampson, who will take over this September as the president of the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, which advises state officials on matters of education policy, wondered whether the yearbook’s facts were up to date. In any case, he said, in the next year or two, his state should go from the current F on “state approval of teacher-preparation programs” to a higher grade because Alaska education leaders are working on an approval process that emphasizes the performance of aspiring teachers.

Said Mr. Sampson, “I’m not confident that those things [the NCTQ] picked out [to grade the states on] are the causes of the output” the authors of the report are seeking.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean
Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management How District Leaders Can Make Sure Teachers Don't Miss the Loan-Forgiveness Deadline
Many teachers and other public employees may not know they qualify for a student loan-forgiveness waiver that has an Oct. 31 deadline.
4 min read
Young adult woman cutting the ball and chain labeled "Debt" which is attached as the tassel hanging from a graduate's mortarboard
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Download A Visual Guide to Nonverbal Communication (Download)
Understanding nonverbal communication can help you improve interactions and get your message across.
1 min read
v42 8SR Nonverbal Communication Share Image
Gina Tomko/Education Week and Getty
School & District Management Ensure Your Staff Gets the Message: 3 Tips for School Leaders
School staff are inundated with information. Here's a few ways to ensure they will actually hear you.
3 min read
Image showing a female and male in business attire connecting speech bubble puzzle pieces.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Keep School Staff Motivated All Year Long: Advice From Principals
Here are some of the things—big and small—that school leaders do and say to keep teachers excited about the job.
13 min read
Teachers and faculty play a game of Kahoot! to get to know one another better during a Welcome Back training at CICS Bucktown on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022 in Chicago, Ill.
Teachers and faculty play a game to get to know one another better during a Welcome Back training at Chicago's CICS Bucktown in August.
Taylor Glascock for Education Week