Progress in Dayton Public Schools’ teacher-policy reforms

Almost a year has passed since the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) published Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in the Dayton Public Schools. The report, funded jointly by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Learn to Earn Dayton, analyzed teacher policies and related practices within the district, with the goal of to identifying short- and long-term improvements to policy and practice that could in turn increase the quality of the teaching force.

As Learn to Earn Executive Director Tom Lasley noted in June of 2013, when the report was released, teachers’ impact matters immensely, especially in a region and district that has seen significant population declines and has confronted (and continues to confront) economic challenges.

NCTQ framed its analysis and findings around five key areas: staffing, evaluations, tenure, compensation, and work schedules. Analysts met with teachers, principals, community leaders, and other stakeholders, and they reviewed district policies and state law. A slate of recommendations—some easier to tackle (e.g., maintain the current schedule of teacher observations under the new evaluation framework) and some harder (e.g., giving principals the authority to decide who works in their buildings)—resulted.

District superintendent Lori Ward and her colleagues got to work and, by December of 2013, accomplished several significant improvements. Among them, principals are no longer forced to accept transferred teachers to fill vacancies; rather, principals have the ability to select the most qualified candidate (including new hires).

Additionally, reductions in force, which in the past were based on seniority and sometimes resulted in the removal of excellent teachers from the classroom, are now based on teacher evaluations and district needs. Seniority is still considered, but only as a tiebreaker in situations where evaluations are similar.

The district also acted on NCTQ recommendations related to tenure and compensation. Two committees—a tenure committee and a compensation committee—were established. They are each comprised in equal number of teachers and administrators. The former committee focuses on awards of tenure, mandatory professional development, and building-level academic teams. The latter committee works on teacher incentives for hard-to-staff buildings and content areas, salary increases based on evaluations, expanded career ladders that enable teachers to increase their compensation while remaining in the classroom and teaching (i.e., teacher leaders).

At the time the NCTQ report was released, there was scant news coverage—and what coverage existed focused on the need to improve. To the best of our knowledge, nobody covered the improvements that have been made, none of which made the easy-to-tackle list. These improvements are a significant accomplishment, and the work of Superintendent Ward, her district colleagues, and members of the teacher union who worked on the changes merits recognition.

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