Reforming Policy to Extend Excellent Teachers’ Reach

For more detail on policy reforms, read the Seizing Opportunity at the Top Policy Brief and related publications here. For a look at how policy can boost the outcomes achieved by blended learning, see A Better Blend hereFor our updated vision of an Opportunity Culture, based partly on what we have learned from pilot schools running up against policy restrictions, see An Opportunity Culture for All

In the U.S. today, we offer too many of our students a crummy deal. The American Dream promises them that all children can rise above their beginnings, but today’s classroom structure guarantees that, on average, students will finish high school at the same educational level, relative to their peers, as they began kindergarten.

To be “the land of opportunity” and have broad civic participation, our nation needs major change, and policymakers can lead the way.

extend the reach of excellent teachers

By generating the will to succeed and the Opportunity Culture policies to back up that will, we can ensure that excellent teachers become available to all students, not just a lucky few.

How? Rigorous recruitment, development, and retention, and necessary dismissals will improve teaching. Among other nations making education surges, the most common practice has been to limit who can teach to their top high school or college students who also exhibit other qualities needed for great teaching. U.S. states could and should follow their lead. But this alone would not be adequate in our economy, absent paid career advancement that makes the teaching profession attractive to more top candidates. Such paid career advancement could be especially effective for recruiting and retaining excellent teachers and teams in hard-to-staff schools and positions, such as STEM teaching, that students sorely need.

To make a major difference, state and federal policymakers should support an Opportunity Culture by giving schools ways to change teacher roles and pay without violating current rules and policies. To date and despite substantial policy advocacy, no state has adopted all the policies needed to give every child an excellent teacher. Instead, states have adopted a mostly uniform set of policies that fall far short.

State policymakers will find much room for leadership on three priorities, explained in more detail on the following pages and in our Policymakers’ Checklist:

  • Require districts to identify the top 25 percent of teachers
  • Invest state funds to identify alternative measures of performance
  • Redesign organizations and jobs to increase excellent teachers’ reach
  • Pay excellent teachers more
  • Proactively retain top teachers
  • Build instructional and data systems
  • Declare a new civil right: access to excellent teachers
  • Report and reward excellent teachers’ reach

 

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