Monday, February 2, 2009
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.