Countless studies have demonstrated that teacher quality is the most important school-based determinant of student learning, and that removing ineffective teachers from the classroom could greatly benefit students. Consequently, many states have reformed their teacher evaluation systems in an effort to differentiate between effective and ineffective teachers, with an eye toward parting ways with the latter.

But is dismissing poorly performing teachers truly feasible in America today? After all the political capital (and real capital) spent on reforming teacher evaluation, can districts actually terminate ineffective teachers who have tenure or have achieved veteran status?

To find answers, Fordham analysts David Griffith and Victoria McDougald constructed a ten-point metric based on three questions:

  1. Does tenure protect veteran teachers from performance-based dismissal?
  2. How long does it take to dismiss an ineffective veteran teacher?
  3. How vulnerable is an ineffective veteran teacher’s dismissal to challenge?

They then used this framework to gauge the difficulty of dismissing ineffective veteran teachers in twenty-five diverse districts.

As shown in the table below, not one district in our sample has an easy process in place for dismissing an ineffective veteran teacher. Rather, the data suggest that significant barriers to dismissal remain in place in every district...

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has put the future of teacher evaluations firmly in the hands of states. Ohio is now in full control of deciding how to develop and best implement its nascent system.

It should come as no surprise to folks in the Buckeye State that the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) has significant room for improvement. Since its inception in 2009, approximately 90 percent of Ohio teachers have been rated in the top two categories and labeled “skilled” or “accomplished.” Unfortunately, there isn’t significant evidence that the system has impacted the quality of Ohio’s teacher workforce, perhaps because there is no statewide law that permits administrators to dismiss teachers based solely on evaluation ratings. Meanwhile, OTES also doesn’t appear to be delivering on the promise to aid teachers in improving their practice.

A quick glance at the ODE-provided template for the professional growth plan, which is used by all teachers except those who are rated ineffective or have below-average student growth, offers a clue as to why practice may not be improving. It is a one-page, fill-in-the-blank sheet. The performance evaluation rubric by which teachers’ observation ratings are determined...

Back in 2011, the Obama administration released its plan for improving teacher education. It included a proposal to revise Title II regulations under the Higher Education Act to focus on outcomes-based measures for teacher preparation programs rather than simply reporting on program inputs. It wasn’t a smooth process. Serious pushback and a stalemate on a federal “rulemaking” panel followed. Draft regulations were finally released in 2014, but were immediately met with criticism. Many advocates wondered if the regulations would ever be finalized.

On October 12, the wondering ceased—the U.S. Department of Education at last released its final teacher preparation regulations. While the final rules number hundreds of pages, the provisions garnering the most attention are those outlining what states must annually report for all teacher preparation programs—including traditional, alternative routes, and distance programs. Indicators are limited to novice teachers[1] and include reporting placement and retention rates of graduates during the first three years of their teaching careers, feedback via surveys on effectiveness from both graduates and employers, and student learning outcomes. These indicators (and others) must be included on mandatory institutional and state teacher preparation program report cards that...

Matt Verber

On October 12, in the ornate Rotunda and Atrium of the Ohio Statehouse, surrounded by family and many of the state’s top education leaders, some of Ohio’s highest-performing beginning teachers were honored for demonstrating superior practice. We at Educopia, Ohio’s partner in administering the Resident Educator Summative Assessment (RESA), feel truly privileged to have hosted the event, which recognized Ohio educators who earned the top 100 overall scores on RESA in each of the past three years. More than 120 of the state’s highest-scoring teachers attended, joined by their spouses, children, and parents in celebration of the honor. State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria, Representative Andrew Brenner - Chair of the House Education Committee, and other state policymakers attended the event. Seeing the teachers beam with pride in front of their families and hearing their sincere gratitude for being recognized for their professional excellence was by far the most moving experience of my career in education policy.

For background, RESA is required for all third-year educators seeking a permanent teaching license in Ohio. It consists of four performance...

A multitude of research has shown that quality teaching is necessary for students’ achievement and positive labor market outcomes. Rigorous evaluations have been hailed as a way to improve the teacher workforce by recognizing and rewarding excellence, providing detailed and ongoing feedback to improve practice, and identifying low-performers who should be let go. While plenty of time has been devoted to how best to provide teachers with feedback, less time has been spent examining how evaluation systems contribute to the removal of underperforming teachers and the resulting changes in the teacher workforce.   

This study examines The Excellence in Teaching Project (EITP), a teacher evaluation system piloted in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in 2008. The program focused solely on classroom observations and used Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (FFT) as the basis for evaluation (unlike many current systems, which rely on multiple measures including student test scores). Roughly nine percent of all CPS elementary teachers participated in the first year of the pilot, which was considered a “low-stakes intervention” since scores on the FFT rubric were not officially included on teachers’ summative evaluation ratings.

Prior to the use of the FFT, teachers in Chicago were evaluated...

We know that teacher quality is the most important in-school factor impacting student performance—and that the variation in teacher quality can be enormous, even within the same school. We also know that most teachers are paid according to step-and-lane salary schedules that exclusively reward years on the job and degrees earned. These systems pay no attention to instructional effectiveness, attendance, leadership and collaboration within one’s school, or any other attributes relevant to being a good worker.

When I entered the classroom at age twenty-two, I looked at my contract and realized I wouldn’t reach my desired salary until I was in my mid-to-late forties. I would reach that level regardless of whether I took one or fifteen sick days every year; whether I put in the bare minimum or a herculean effort (as many educators do in fact do); or whether I clocked out at 3:01 or stayed with my students to offer extra help. No matter the outcomes my kids achieved, my salary would steadily tick upward based only on time accrued. Predictable, yes. But given the urgent task at hand—to keep excellent educators at the instructional helm, address the challenges of burnout and attrition,...

A new Mathematica study revisits the effects of pay-for-performance on educators. It evaluates the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), which was established by Congress in 2006 and provides grants to support performance-based compensation for teachers and principals in high-need schools.

The TIF program has four components: measuring teacher and principal effectiveness using both student growth and classroom observations; offering bonuses based on effectiveness; enhancing pay for taking on additional roles or responsibilities; and providing professional development to help educators understand the pay-for-performance system.

From 2006 to 2012, the United States Department of Education awarded $1.8 billion to support 131 TIF grants. Mathematica’s study examines implementation of all sixty-two 2010 TIF grantees during the 2013–14 school year (for most of the grantees, this was three years into implementation).

It also separately reports impacts for a ten-district subset of 2010 grantees that participated in a random assignment study. Treatment schools were meant to all four TIF program components; they also received guidance on how to structure the bonuses, including admonitions that the bonuses should be substantial, differentiated, and challenging to earn. Control schools didn’t receive this guidance and were instead meant to implement every component except for the performance bonuses (they did receive...

How does teaching stack up to other occupations in terms of compensation? A recent analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), an organization with union ties, has gained attention for its findings on the growing teacher “wage gap.” Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey (BLS-CPS), the EPI analysts report a 17 percent disparity between teachers’ weekly wages relative to other college-educated workers. When they add generous benefits on top—including health care and pensions—that gap shrinks to 11 percent. These differences in wages and total compensation, the authors find, are much wider than what teachers faced in mid-1990s. Based on their analysis, they suggest raising teacher wages and benefits across the board.

Do the EPI authors get it right? There are a few problems with their analysis: They chose a questionable comparison group by looking at other college-educated workers, and they don’t account for summers off. (Also see economist Michael Podgursky’s Flypaper article, which argues that BLS benefits data undervalue teacher pensions, leading EPI to overstate the gap in total compensation.)

Let’s start with the problem of EPI’s comparison group—workers holding a college degree. By using this group as a benchmark,...

A new analysis from the National Council on Teacher Quality and the Brookings Institution examines the demographic gap between the current teaching workforce and students; its causes; ways to close it; and whether it will grow or shrink in the future. To do this, researchers pulled together data from a wide variety of sources, including the Census and National Center for Education Statistics, and used both descriptive analyses and projections.

Research clearly shows that regular interactions between students and adults of their own and different races is beneficial for academic achievement and behavior. Thus, the authors take as given that having a diverse workforce, in which teacher demographics mirror those of the student population, is a common goal for schools. (At the same time, the authors acknowledge that diversity does not supersede teacher quality as a driver of positive outcomes.)

The authors find that the pool of available minority teachers does not match the diversity of students now, and they predict that the mismatch will grow in the future. Minority students make up half of the public school student population, while minority teachers constitute only 18 percent of the workforce. The gap is particularly large for Hispanic students—at present, 26...

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently reviewed one hundred of the nation’s pre-K teacher preparation programs, attempting to answer whether pre-K teacher candidates are being adequately prepared for effectiveness in their future jobs. The answer is, largely, no.

The programs spanned twenty-nine states that certify pre-K teachers, most of them offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They reviewed course requirements and descriptions, course syllabi, student teaching observation and evaluation forms, and other course materials required for degree completion.

The bottom line, reported NCTQ, is that most of the programs spend far too much of their limited time focusing on how to teach older children rather than on the specific training needed to teach three- and four-year-olds. Some specific findings are neatly summarized in the following slides from NCTQ:

NCTQ recommends, among other things, that states narrow their licensure to certify educators to no more than the years between pre-K and third grade, rather than treating pre-K as a part of a broader elementary teaching credential; that they encourage teacher preparation programs to offer either more specialized degrees or early childhood education as...