Of the enacted state legislation in 2017, no issue we track received greater attention than teachers. This is not surprising, given longstanding research that has shown that, of the school-based factors impacting student achievement, teachers have the greatest level of influence.
While some attrition is expected and necessary, persistent teacher shortages can be costly for districts and have negative impacts on workforce quality, student outcomes and school climate. Worse yet, staffing inadequacies and turnover tend to have the greatest impact on schools and students that can afford it the least.
To elevate the teaching profession and improve student success, state leaders continue to tinker with old policies — and create new ones — to recruit excellent teachers and ensure they stay. Some policies are old hat, such as improving teacher compensation and simplifying licensure requirements, and others are new, such as promoting teacher career pathways and providing opportunities for advancement.
To inform thoughtful state policymaking and help leaders learn from one another, we’ve created three Policy Snapshots highlighting state action on teacher recruitment, evaluation, development and advancement:
Targeted Teacher Recruitment. In 2017, at least 47 bills were enacted in 23 states to recruit teachers to high-need schools and subjects. For example, North Carolina created a new program to encourage high-achieving high school students to consider teaching as a career, and re-established their greatly missed teaching fellows program — this time directing candidates to subject shortage areas. Also, Colorado passed a bill to require a comprehensive study of teacher shortages in the state and another bill to recruit retired teachers to rural schools.
Teacher Evaluations. Teacher evaluations can be used by states and districts to support and develop an exceptional workforce. In 2017, at least 20 bills were enacted in 16 states to alter or improve teacher evaluation systems. For example, Idaho passed a bill providing funding to help districts comply with state teacher evaluation requirements, and Indiana passed a bill providing grants to school districts for programs that include instruction-focused accountability through an evaluation system based on multiple measures.
Teacher Development and Advancement. Though district and school leaders drive teacher professional development and advancement, state policymakers can create the structures and incentives that support high-quality systems. In 2017, at least 21 bills were enacted in 14 states to provide teachers with opportunities for targeted professional development, career advancement and leadership. For example, Arkansas passed a bill to allow teachers to obtain professional development credit through micro-credentialing and another bill to allow for a tiered system of licensure that includes a teacher leader advanced license or a teacher leader endorsement. Also, Connecticut passed a bill providing significant flexibility to districts to establish professional development activities aligned to district goals.
We hope this Policy Snapshot series spurs fruitful conversations in your state. Please reach out to us with any questions!