Monday, February 2, 2009

Report on state policies for new teachers, taken with a grain of salt

What can states do to retain effective new teachers? The 2008 State Teacher Policy Yearbook analyzes state-level efforts here. (Hat tip: Equity Express)

The report grades states on a tough scale. Kentucky’s D+ matches 16 other states, with 15 scoring higher and 19 (including the District of Columbia) scoring lower.

The report is impressive as a tour of key issues, but in the end, I am not convinced that these standards are quite the right ones to watch. I’ll settle for just two examples.

First, it looks for state-level value-added approaches using test scores to track teacher effectiveness and state-level processes “to evaluate cumulative effectiveness in the classroom.” State-level rules can matter on those issues, but the commitment of district and school level leaders matter more. If principals start each school year checking steadily on their newest teachers, they can spot problems and offer help long before detailed test data arrives—and district culture is crucial to whether principals keep that in the forefront.

Second, it advocates stronger pay increases at tenure, added compensation for relevant non-teaching work, differential pay for difficult assignments, and increased salaries for higher student performance—all widely discussed, and all with price tags. Yet the report offers little idea of what costs can be and asserts in the introduction that its goals “are for the most part relatively cost-neutral.” It's difficult to imagine a state affording robust implementation of all four ideas.

Again, a report worth reading to see possible issues and consider ways Kentucky could do things differently, but not, to my mind, a convincing checklist of the changes we most need to make.

1 comment:

  1. Susan,

    You lost me with your criticism of the State Teacher Policy Yearbook’s call for differentiated pay for teachers. I thought Prichard was already on board favoring this in general principle, at least. See the bullet item on page 18 in “High Achieving High Schools” regarding “Top priority: Create a differentiated teacher compensation system,” on line at:

    I am not surprised, on the other hand, with your resistance to the suggestion to use value-added assessments as a part of a program to track teacher effectiveness. That is perfectly in line with Prichard’s position to leave the CATS assessment largely as is, with just minor changes at best.

    Of course, thanks to matrixing, the current CATS model is hopeless for use in a quality value added assessment system. That’s not just my informed opinion, by the way. Among others, I asked the value-added “guru” who created the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System about it.

    If we ever go to real value-added assessments, it will have to be with a significantly revised, or replaced, CATS. As long as we keep CATS pretty much as is, a number of bad things will continue. For example, teachers may continue to get fired based on an unfair application of a dubious assessment. At least that’s what KBE member Dorie Combs indicates is happening in a new Richard Day blog (see:

    Anyway, I also have some reservations about the Yearbook, but overall it looks like a considerable amount of thought went into the report, and this should be on the “read” list for everyone concerned about our education system.


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