ESSA asks states to offer definitions of 'ineffective teachers'

Dive Brief:

  • Though the Every Student Succeeds Act will discontinue No Child Left Behind’s “highly qualified teacher” mandate, it does demand that states submit a definition of an “ineffective teacher” to the government, along with a plan for how to make sure underprepared educators aren't disproportionately teaching in schools primarily serving poor and minority students, Education Week reports.
  • Of the 17 states that have submitted ESSA plans thus far, the responses regarding ineffective teaching have varied. Oregon and the District of Columbia, for example, said they would offer a more concrete definition at a later date, while Vermont will label every teacher with certification as effective.
  • Critics argue that it can be difficult for states to determine what makes an effective teacher, but civil rights advocates assert that oversight via the federal government may be the best way to ensure that low-income and minority students are receiving quality educations.

Dive Insight:

Different states, as well as the individual school districts within those states, may face a variety of challenges in measuring a teacher’s effectiveness, and even in procuring enough teachers who would qualify. For example, Vermont will label all certified teachers as effective, but this kind of classification could be complicated by the fact that many rural areas often have difficulty in finding certified teachers in sparsely populated areas, or in attracting qualified teachers to move and teach there. The challenges districts have in finding and retaining talent can vary wildly within an individual state, and this can make it more difficult to determine how best to gauge the skill levels of teachers in a district.

School administrators must also be wary of punishing schools in low-income communities if a disproportionate number of substandard teachers is found to be teaching in those facilities. School districts must ensure that their best and brightest are not confined to affluent areas, but are spread throughout the schools. Doing so can offer impoverished schools access to the best talent and grant peers someone to emulate in their own approach.

It will ultimately not help students if states mandate that substandard teachers are removed from low-income schools without qualified faculty to take their place. But it's also worth considering the notion that you can't necessarily fire your way to success, either. If teachers deemed "ineffective" are passionate but underprepared, it may be more worthwhile to provide the resources to help them improve.

Filed Under: K12 Policy & Regulation