New Report Focuses on Why States Fail to Retain New Teachers

A new report finds that the laws and regulations of a majority of states discourage promising new teachers from sticking with the profession, while doing little to identify and move out ineffective teachers.

The report, released by the not-for-profit, non-partisan National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), finds that states:

1) do not require sufficient support and evaluation of new teachers, a problem since most districts rarely opt to exceed state requirements;

2) do not require or even allow a teacher’s effectiveness to be considered when granting tenure, although states control how and when tenure is awarded;

3) cling to anachronistic compensation schemes rather than advancing differentiated pay systems;

4) are lagging in the development of the systems necessary for identifying effective teachers;

5) place a disproportionate emphasis on providing pension benefits to retiring teachers at the expense of providing benefits that would appeal to younger teachers; and

6) allow far too many ineffective teachers to remain in the classroom and gain tenure, including teachers who repeatedly fail to meet the state’s own licensing standards.

NCTQ President Kate Walsh said, “The third through fifth years of teaching represent an opportunity lost for teacher quality. That’s certainly when teachers begin to add real value, and it’s also when they tend to make decisions about staying or leaving. States can help districts do much more to ensure that the right teachers stay and the right teachers leave.”

The 2008 State Teacher Policy Yearbook finds that state regulations are in need of significant reforms in order to improve teacher quality and offers states specific guidelines for rectifying substandard policies.

NCTQ, in consultation with over 150 leading thinkers, organizations, and teachers in the country, identified 15 policy goals that support the retention of effective new teachers. While no one state represents a national model for change, NCTQ found South Carolina to be leading other states, earning a rating of B-.

South Carolina has particularly noteworthy policies for ensuring that ineffective teachers do not remain in the classroom. Other states with some strong and effective policies in particular areas are Alabama, Ohio, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee, all of which received an overall grade of C. Eight states received a C-, 30 states received a grade in the D range, and six received an F. Key findings include:

States’ laws ensure that teachers can gain tenure without demonstrating they are effective: States do virtually nothing to establish teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom before awarding them permanent employment status—more commonly known as tenure.

States are complicit in keeping far too many ineffective teachers in the classroom: Although it is local districts that hire and fire teachers, states could do considerably more to ensure that ineffective teachers do not remain in the classroom indefinitely.

State policies raise unnecessary barriers for advancing in the profession, and could do much more to influence teachers’ decisions to stay or go: In the areas of compensation, certification and induction, there is much more states could do to support the retention of effective teachers early in their careers.

State pension systems are generally inflexible and unfair to all teachers, but they particularly disadvantage teachers early in their careers: States continue to provide teachers with expensive and inflexible pension plans that do not reflect the realities of the modern workforce.

Each state’s Yearbook, as well as a national summary, is immediately available for free download.

Source: National Council on Teacher Quality

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