Last month, Bellwether Education Partners released a new report on recent action that states have taken with respect to teacher effectiveness. The report analyzes the 21 states that have addressed teacher effectiveness since 2010 through new statutes and regulations. The study scored states based upon thirteen criteria, some of which include:
- Are all teachers evaluated annually?
- Are principals, as well as teachers, evaluated?
- Is evidence of student learning a factor in educator evaluations?
- Do evaluations differentiate between multiple levels of educator effectiveness?
- Are educator preparation programs accountable for graduates’ effectiveness?
- Is tenure linked to effectiveness?
- Does state law or policy provide clear authority to dismiss ineffective teachers and a reasonable process for doing so?
- Do principals have the authority to decide who teaches in their schools?
- Are effective teachers rewarded with increased compensation?
Out of all the states studied, Connecticut (tying with New York) scored in the bottom half. Bellwether was careful to qualify the scores by observing that the accomplishments of these 21 states did not occur in a vacuum, but within unique contexts. Therefore, states should view the results as indicators of current progress and as an opportunity to identify areas for improvement moving forward. So what grades for efforts to improve teacher effectiveness did Connecticut bring home on its report card? Connecticut received full credit for requiring teachers to be annually evaluated, for evaluating principals, and for developing a four-level rating system. However, for the remaining ten criteria that Bellwether measured, Connecticut received partial or no credit.
Factoring Student Learning into Evaluations: Connecticut lost points in the area of requiring student learning to be a factor in teacher evaluations—because Connecticut only allows up to 45% of an evaluation to be based upon indicators of student learning. In contrast, Delaware’s evaluation system places such an emphasis on student learning that teachers are not able to obtain an overall effective rating if they do not meet expectations for student growth.
Accountability for Teacher Preparation Programs: States like Louisiana and Tennessee have developed systems of measuring value-added data on the graduates of teacher preparation programs. Connecticut’s newly developed Educator Preparation Advisory Council (EPAC) has been tasked with creating standards for holding these programs accountable for their graduates’ performance, and consequently has the perfect opportunity to look to these other models and to help Connecticut grow in this area. (CCER’s Executive Director, Rae Ann Knopf is a member of the EPAC!)
Increased Compensation for Effective Teachers: Bellwether found that Connecticut does not adequately reward effective teachers with increased compensation. Indeed, recent Connecticut legislation failed to address this matter (except for a discretionary authority within the Commissioner’s Network). Out of the twenty-one states evaluated by Bellwether, 14 explicitly require or encourage linking compensation and performance. For example, Indiana requires the vast majority of a teacher’s salary to be based upon their evaluations, leadership roles, and student need (rather than other criteria such as years of service or degrees). We at CCER think that Connecticut should be proud of the progress it has made, and of the fact that the legislative and administrative accomplishments over the last several months in our state merit its inclusion in the Bellwether report. But there is always room for improvement particularly on an issue as important as ensuring that Connecticut’s students have effective teachers. The Bellwether report illustrates that several other states have developed high-quality policy agendas to improve teacher effectiveness. Through the work of EPAC and the implementation of Connecticut’s new legislation, Connecticut has a clear plan to keep moving forward. To take a closer look at these and other criteria that Bellwether analyzed, or to see how the other 20 states fared, read the report here.