Education Policy and Advocacy

Ensuring Students Have Equitable Access to Qualified Teachers

As the dust begins to settle from the COVID-19 pandemic, the learning loss caused from a tumultuous couple of years is becoming clearer. More than ever, students are in need of high-quality educators who are going to help them get on track to where they need to be for their futures  – especially the traditionally underserved students who have been affected the most. And yet, gaining equitable access to these qualified and high quality educators is a barrier in itself.

Our friends at the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently released a new state policy brief, Ensuring Students’ Equitable Access to Qualified and Effective Teachers, where they dig into how each state is collecting and reporting on the equitable distribution of teacher talent among schools. To be clear, this is not a new issue brought on by COVID. Following the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2016, states are required to report on levels of equity with respect to educator talent – and they were offered a lot of flexibility in doing so. 

How are states doing? NCTQ’s new state policy brief includes the following key national findings:

  • Only 18 states publish data addressing all three measures of teacher quality required by the law (inexperienced, out-of-field, and effective teaching), and Arkansas and Colorado are the only states that stand out as models worth duplicating.
  • There are no consistent definitions for any of the metrics. For example, there are five different definitions of what defines a ‘sufficiently experienced teacher across states.’
  • Many states do not share sufficiently disaggregated data, with only 34 states reporting data at all three of the school, district, and state levels, and only 14 states disaggregating their data to show the distribution of teachers in schools serving large proportions of students of color.
  • Many states do not provide sufficient context for the data they share, making district comparisons or trends over time within states difficult.

However concerning the findings may be, the policy brief provides a glimmer of hope that it’s not too late to fix these problems. NCTQ presents the following recommendations to advocates and policymakers:

  • Improve how data is reported so it is clearer how schools and districts fare in relation to the state average or other obvious points of comparison (such as schools and districts with comparable populations);
  • Add a summary calculation capturing all of the measures used to define an effective, qualified teacher;
  • Incorporate the best available teacher effectiveness data; and
  • Commit to refreshing data at least every other year.

At America Succeeds, our commitment to equity in education is unwavering. Our release of Advancing Equity in Education last fall presented five pillars of equity for advocates to address to advance equity in our nation’s education system with recruiting and retaining educators of color being one of the pillars. NCTQ’s new brief presents data and analysis that underscores this highly important, often overlooked issue that states must address if they are going to help students overcome the struggles of the last couple of years and build a more resilient education system. 

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