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State Teacher Policies Get a D Grade From NCTQ

The National Council on Teacher Quality has released its third encyclopedic "yearbook" of state teacher-quality policies, this time focused on what laws and regulations states had on the books as of 2009. (Remember that these are state policies; local ones are supplemented by what's in collective bargaining agreements, memorandums of understanding, or the results of meet-and-confer arrangements.)

Most of the states got scores in the D range. Just a handful of states—mostly Southern, right-to-work states, interestingly—got the slightly higher but still undesirable grade of C.

Here are a few facts from the yearbook that I find especially interesting:

• Twenty-six states require no content preparation for elementary-level special education teachers.

• On evaluations, nine states don't specify any evaluation parameters. The others do; of those, 15 require annual evaluations, and 16 require objective measures of student performance to be considered. Twenty-one states don't require evaluations to include classroom observations. (Paging Randi Weingarten!) Four states require evidence of teacher performance to be considered when granting tenure.

• Four states offer teachers a defined-contribution rather than a defined-benefit pension plan.

• Seventeen states set a salary schedule based on teacher longevity and credentials, and 18 require districts to set similar schedules.

• Nineteen states support performance-based-pay programs. Of those, 16 explicitly connect performance pay to evidence of student achievement (not necessarily test scores) and 14 allow all teachers to participate, not just teachers in tested grades and subjects.

As we all know, teacher quality is often a touchy subject, one with more than its fair share of passionate advocates. Or to put it another way, tempers flare early and often on this beat. The NCTQ reports frequently cause a maelstrom of debate. This one will probably be no exception. The council labels traditional salary schedules as "outmoded," for instance, thinks that teachers should be compensated for boosting student achievement, and says most pension systems are inflexible and unfair. And the council has specific ideas about what teachers need to know to teach reading and math, which is a hot-button issue all by itself.

Feel free to write in and let us know if agree with the rationale behind the council's selected indicators and grades. Do you agree with its view of the state policies documented here? Why or why not?

It will be interesting to see whether, in the wake of the Race to the Top, some of these numbers—in addition to the council's grades—change in future years.

You can read prior Education Week coverage of this annual report here and here.

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