2008 State Teacher Policy Yearbook: What States Can Do To Retain Effective New Teachers

National Council on Teacher Quality

This second installment of NCTQ's annual analysis of states' teacher policies, unlike the comprehensive 2007 inaugural edition, focuses on a narrower set of critical questions: what can state policymakers do to identify and retain effective new teachers, and how can they make it easier for districts to remove ineffective instructors from the classroom? Drawing from a rich data set, the document reveals just how far most states are from sensible teacher staffing policies. Some of its more telling findings: just two states require any evidence of teacher effectiveness to be considered in tenure decisions; thirty-six do not require teacher evaluations to include any objective measure of student learning (despite NCTQ's generous definition of objective measures, which includes student work and student quizzes); and only five allow new teachers to be compensated for relevant prior work experience (unlike virtually every other field!). Surprisingly, however, more than half the states give districts full authority over teacher pay rates--meaning they could choose to buck the traditional step-and-lane salary scale if they wanted to. Of course they don't. In the end, South Carolina came out on top with a B+ for its teacher retention polices (there were no As) while most states earned Ds and Fs. NCTQ President Kate Walsh says the report "offers practical, rather than pie-in-the-sky, solutions for improving teacher quality." Abolishing tenure may be too much to hope for but even Ted Strickland, Governor of teacher-union-loving Ohio, seems to think the time required for a tenure decision could be tripled. Changing compensation systems should be easier still. You can find this excellent report here and a fun and interactive website here.

Amber M. Northern, Ph.D.
Amber M. Northern, Ph.D. is a Senior Vice President for Research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute