NCTQ says oversight of teacher prep inches forward

NCTQ says oversight of teacher prep inches forward

(Calif.) Twenty-three states earned above the median score on a controversial matrix used annually by the National Council on Teacher Quality to evaluate teacher effectiveness and preparation programs.

This year’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook, released this week by the education advocacy group, gave an average grade of C-minus.

Educators and state policy makers have criticized the NCTQ evaluation in the past for relying too often on documents and not actual site visits.

The highest grade, for instance, a B-plus, was given to Florida. Indiana, Louisiana, New York and Tennessee all earned a B grade while eight others received a B-minus.

Alaska, South Dakota and Vermont earned a D-minus for 2015, and California, Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Wisconsin and Wyoming all earned Ds; Montana received an F.

The NCTQ looked at factors including how high a grade point average an applicant to a teacher training program needed to gain admittance; the amount of high-quality student teaching experience they will need to complete the program; and how layoffs are decided when necessary.

A new focus for the past two years has been on how states handle the dismissal of teachers found to be ineffective.

“In 2015, 28 states now articulate that ineffective teaching is grounds for teacher dismissal,” according to Sandi Jacobs, vice president of state and district policy for the Council and project director for the report.

“However, in most states, the due process procedures remain cumbersome,” she wrote. “While teachers should have an opportunity to appeal, multiple levels of appeal drain resources from school districts and create a disincentive for districts to attempt to dismiss poor performers.”

Teacher preparation programs came under national scrutiny in 2014, when U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters that new teachers are often left struggling to figure out the specifics of running a classroom. Duncan attributed this as a key factor that causes many to leave the profession within the first few years.

Concerns have been raised that in addition to higher turnover rates, fewer candidates are enrolling in teacher preparation programs or being issued teaching credentials each year, leaving many states – including California – with a shortage of qualified teachers.

Among the states that have struggled with the NCTQ ranking is California, where efforts to align teaching and college and career ready standards have improved. But the state falls short, the Council says, in adopting policies that would allow schools to dismiss ineffective educators.

Recommendations in the report to improve in that area include:

  • Ensuring that effectiveness be the most important aspect in tenure decisions;
  • Requiring annual evaluations for all teachers;
  • Considering classroom ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal; and
  • Ensuring those deemed ineffective are given the time and support to improve.

California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing, however, took exception to NCTQ’s evaluation of the state’s programs.

“The Commission appreciates NCTQ’s focus on preparing and supporting effective teachers,” Joshua Speaks, legislative representative for the CTC wrote in an email to Cabinet Report. “However, the Commission fundamentally disagrees with NCTQ’s policy prescriptions for creating an effective teaching workforce. The Commission believes that these policy prescriptions are out of sync with California’s approach to teacher preparation, which is recognized nationwide for innovation and high standards.

“California teacher preparation programs are assessed using a wide array of measures of program quality,” he continued, adding that the Commission is “committed to remaining a nationwide leader in educator preparation in order to ensure California students have a well-prepared and exceptionally qualified educator workforce.”

The NCTQ report ranked California above average in its ability to retain effective teachers through compensation that relied in part on effectiveness, as well as professional development tied to teacher evaluations that allow educators to address their weaknesses.

Pension plans, included as a factor for the first time, were also rated above average in California for flexibility, sustainability and neutrality.