Providing good teachers for all students proves to be a challenge for states
- Though the “highly qualified teacher” mandates have been scrapped under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states are now tasked with defining an “effective teacher” and making sure that these teachers are being equitably distributed to all demographic groups, Education Week reports.
- Some states are moving away from the inclusion of student-growth data and test scores in their evaluations while other states, such as New Mexico are making evaluations even tougher by including measures such as teacher absences and classroom observations.
- States also are working to compile data and figure out ways to the analyze distribution of effective, ineffective, and inexperienced teachers so that they can develop plans to more equitably spread effective teachers among student groups, regardless of income levels or minority status.
Most teachers become more effective with experience, while other teachers never become effective at all. The new ESSA regulations require that states now define “ineffective,” “inexperienced,” or “out-of-field teachers” and work to make sure that effective teachers are placed into high-poverty, high-minority classrooms in an equitable fashion. States are now tasked with creating plans that effectively measure teacher quality and ensure that all students have equal access to effective teachers, who have a strong impact on academic achievement. Some states are doing a better job than others, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.
ESSA grants states flexibility that allows them to move away from high-stakes testing to determine teacher effectiveness. This move is likely to be a good one in the long run because it will encourage creativity and innovation in classroom settings. Not all teachers teach in the same manner and not all students learn in the same way as well. While student-growth is still the goal, test scores do not always reflect this growth when considered in isolation.
However, even if an acceptable definition of an “effective” teacher emerges, distribution is still an issue. School leaders cannot move teachers from place to place as they could in a computer simulation. These teachers must want to teach in high-poverty, high-minority areas that are likely to have greater needs and require more work. Studies have shown that financial incentives are not always enough to attract teachers to these schools. Therefore, school districts may have to become more creative in finding ways to attract and retain effective teachers in high-needs areas. This may mean increased support, professional development, improved working conditions and chances for upward career mobility, as in the case of the Opportunity Culture concept.