School & District Management

NGA Report Urges Tougher Standards for Educators

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 12, 2009 3 min read
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The nation’s governors should promote a higher-quality educator workforce by retooling key leverage points on state and local systems for recruiting, training, and retaining talent, a new report concludes.

Such changes should include setting or raising minimum-entry standards for teacher- and principal-training programs; strengthening such programs by improving their emphasis on student achievement; and designing performance-based pay and professional career ladders to keep effective educators in the field, says the report, which was released here last week by the Center for Best Practices, the consulting wing of the Washington-based National Governors Association.

The notion of improving systems for training, compensating, and developing teachers and principals has gained much attention recently through the Strategic Management of Human Capital task force. Organized last year, the smhc partnership has brought together superintendents, union leaders, and governors to identify and share best practices to foster those goals.

The NGA report further underscores that a focus on human capital requires the backing of states’ top decisionmakers.

“It is, to me, the number-one issue facing this country,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat, at a news conference held at the NGA’s headquarters. “For our economic competitiveness, it’s crucial we turn out the most skilled and educated workforce we can.”

Holistic Approach

The report’s key message is that such initiatives should be pushed as part of a holistic plan to change the composition of the educator workforce, rather than as a menu of discrete options. Its recommendations draw on a number of successful state and local practices.

Among those recommendations, the report says governors should spearhead efforts to:

• Adopt stronger teacher-preparation program admission standards for candidates, such as a higher minimum SAT score and GPA;

• Require principal-preparation programs to use a track record of improving student achievement as an entry criteria for prospective principals;

• Require teacher-preparation programs to feature content-specific coursework;

• Require teachers to pass licensure tests within one year of hire;

• Redesign compensation systems for teachers to include performance-based pay and higher pay for teachers in shortage fields and hard-to-staff schools;

• Compensate principals based on their ability to effectively manage human capital, including their ability to improve teachers’ working conditions and retention rates; and

• Require teachers and principals to be evaluated annually and throughout the school year.

Pushback Anticipated

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who has championed that state’s Q-Comp differentiated-compensation system, said that such elements are not all-inclusive.

But, he added, the report “zooms in on key strategies states are deploying, but need to do so more rapidly.”

Referring to the national graduation rate of about 70 percent, Mr. Pawlenty said: “In a hypercompetitive global economy, we are not going to be able to compete if we have a third of our team on the bench.”

In the past, the governors have collectively agreed to work toward specific educational objectives, such as setting a standardized rate for measuring high school graduation. Although there is no formal structure for advancing these human-capital reforms, the two governors pointed to the $5 billion in discretionary stimulus funding, as a potential lever for galvanizing state action.

Mr. Pawlenty noted that several of the ideas in the report could generate pushback from other state groups, such as teachers’ unions, legislators, and higher education associations.

His own plans to advance such ideas in Minnesota by making the Q-Comp program mandatory, raising entry standards for teacher-preparation programs, creating pathways for recruiting midcareer professionals into teaching, and improving professional development, hasn’t yet gained traction, for instance. (“Minnesota Governor Targets Teacher Quality,” Oct. 8, 2008)

“The legislature hasn’t embraced them very enthusiastically,” he acknowledged. “But we’ll keep working on it.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 20, 2009 edition of Education Week as Governors’ Group Urges Higher Educator Standards

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