Teaching Profession

States’ ESSA Plans Fall Short on Educator Equity, NCTQ Analysis Finds

By Madeline Will — November 14, 2017 3 min read
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Most states are not planning to do enough to prevent low-income students and students of color from being disproportionately taught by ineffective or inexperienced teachers, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The Every Student Succeed Acts requires that states define “ineffective” and “inexperienced” teachers in their federally required plans, and describe ways they’ll ensure that low-income and nonwhite students aren’t being taught by these teachers at higher rates than their peers.

NCTQ, a Washington-based research and advocacy group, today released new analyses of 34 states’ plans, following its analyses of 16 states and the District of Columbia, which was released in June. In that earlier round, the group found a few bright spots, including New Mexico and Tennessee.

See also: State ESSA Plans Differ on What Makes an ‘Ineffective’ or ‘Inexperienced’ Teacher

NCTQ looked at these metrics in its analyses:

  • How do states define inexperienced and ineffective teachers? NCTQ recommends that states define an inexperienced teacher as someone with two or fewer years of experience. An ineffective teacher should be defined by using “objective measures of student learning and growth” (like student test scores).
  • What data are states using? NCTQ advises states to report student-level data, and consider whether there are additional student subgroups that might have educator equity gaps.
  • When will states eliminate identified educator equity gaps? NCTQ calls for states to make publicly available timelines and interim targets for eliminating the gaps.
  • What are states’ strategies to target identified equity gaps? NCTQ says that specific strategies should be developed with stakeholder input and be evaluated over time.

(It’s important to note that these are not specified by the federal law; they are NCTQ’s interpretation of what states should be doing under ESSA.)

More than half of the state plans fail to publicly report data on the educator equity gaps. Only seven states—including New Jersey and New Mexico—specify a timeline to eliminate identified gaps.

Elizabeth Ross, the managing director of state policy at NCTQ, called the plans “way beyond shameful” in a statement.

“States had months to develop these plans, and this problem has been going on for decades, so these plans should have done a far better job of ensuring that states, districts, and schools do not discriminate against low-income students and students of color in the quality of their teachers,” she said.

Still, as my colleage Daarel Burnette II reported after the first round of ESSA plans, district administrators, union officials, and state politicians often disagree over what makes a teacher “ineffective,” making some state education officials reluctant to determine a sweeping definition. Indeed, the NCTQ analyses show that many states don’t include an objective measure of student growth in their ineffective teacher definitions. (ESSA does not require states to set up teacher-evaluation systems based in significant part on students’ test scores, and some states have been moving away from student growth measures in evaluations.)

A few states, however, are doing what the NCTQ deemed as promising practices. The group applauded Utah, for example, for giving bonuses to teachers who are considered effective in the highest poverty schools in the state. Florida has state legislation that requires districts to make sure that students are not assigned to an ineffective teacher (defined by a final rating of unsatisfactory on the state’s teacher-evaluation system) for two consecutive years. And Kentucky and New York calculate and report data on student charactistics beyond poverty and race, including English-language learners and students with disabilities.

To read all of the NCTQ’s analyses of individual state plans, see here. And for a detailed overview of what’s inside state’s ESSA plans, including teacher quality metrics, check out Education Week’s guide.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.