5 Ways States Can Improve Reporting on Student Access to Effective Teachers

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This guest post comes from Shayna Levitan, policy analyst at the National Council on Teacher Quality. Views expressed in guest posts are those of the author.

Having a qualified, effective teacher remains paramount to achieve educational equity for all students. However, students of color and students from low-income backgrounds continue to more likely be taught by inexperienced, out-of-field and less effective teachers.

State policymakers play a central role in improving access to highly qualified teachers. To inform future policy decisions, states can publish actionable, accessible data on which teachers are teaching which students. After all, how will education leaders and policymakers know if equity gaps are narrowing if data are not tracked and reported effectively?

Though states are required to report this data as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act, they are granted wide latitude on how they fulfill these requirements. As a result, there is significant variation in what states report across the country, and many states do not currently report on teacher assignment patterns for students of color. However, state leaders may be interested in learning how they can begin or support this process to increase data transparency. Below are five considerations for state policymakers to improve reporting on equitable access to effective teachers:

1. Publish data on teachers serving students of color and students living in poverty. 

Disaggregated teacher placement data often reveals specific instances where novice, less-than qualified teachers are disproportionately teaching students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. Florida disaggregates data into classifications based on students’ Title I status, “poverty status” and “minority status” for each reporting measure, and directly compares rates between these groupings. In doing so, data for Duval County School reveals that schools with the most students of color have twice as many inexperienced teachers as compared to schools within the same district with the fewest students of color.

2. Report on inexperienced, out-of-field and ineffective teachers, and define these terms to align with research consensus. 

Assessing several key measures of teacher quality provides a more informed understanding for stakeholders interested in ensuring more equitable access to highly qualified teachers. Eighteen states report on all three measures named in the Every Student Succeeds Act: inexperience, out-of-field and ineffectiveness. Maryland not only publishes data on inexperienced, out-of-field, and ineffective teachers, but also align their definitions to mirror the research consensus on the topic. For example, the state considers an “inexperienced teacher” to be in their first, second, or third years of teaching, a definition that takes account of the years in which new teachers are most rapidly improving.

3. Create a summary datapoint for each school and district.

Developing a datapoint to summarize several measures of teacher quality can help stakeholders identify where the most prominent educator equity gaps exist and assist them on where to dedicate limited resources. Arkansas not only publishes data on each of these measures, but also uses this data to calculate a unique Workforce Stability Index (WSI). By publishing the WSI scores among schools and districts that enroll large percentages of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds, the state can quickly pinpoint where gaps exist.

Using another approach, Colorado calculates the difference between the highest and lowest enrollment quartiles of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds to identify whether teacher equity gaps exist within and between districts, and how significant these gaps are.

4. Break down data by state-, district- and school-level. 

District- and school-level data provide an additional level of detail to inform decision making, potentially revealing local differences that aggregated state data does not. Massachusetts is exemplary in that it publishes state-, district- and school-level data, and displays it so that stakeholders can directly compare school-level data within and between districts as well as district-level data to the state average. In practice, this quickly reveals that, in Worcester Public Schools, there’s a 40-percentage point range in the proportion of “experienced” teachers across the district’s 45 schools. This type of data can be especially informative to states in understanding assignment patterns across large districts.

5. Display data in an accessible way. 

Data on teacher assignment patterns is only as valuable as the extent to which it is displayed clearly and made accessible. Washington provides data features with graphical elements that guide users towards key data and trends. Notably, the state’s reporting is found in a single place, includes detailed graphs with clear data labels, appropriate scaling and colors, text interpreting the graph and definitions to explain what each measure represents. Users can also download the full data set for further analysis.

Taken together, these five reporting elements can help states and districts accurately and easily identify gaps to access to qualified teachers for students in their states, particularly students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

For a full analysis of state reporting, see the National Council on Teacher Quality’s recent report Ensuring Students’ Equitable Access to Qualified and Effective Teachers.

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