Clear Barriers to Reach Extension

In most states today, too many policies put up barriers to excellent teachers who want to reach more children for more pay. Policymakers can lead the way toward ensuring all students have access to an excellent teacher by clearing the barriers that will allow schools to redesign schools and jobs, pay excellent teachers more, offer rich career advancement opportunities, and build instructional and data systems.

Redesign organizations and jobs to increase excellent teachers’ reach

Today, rigid budget categories, across-the-board class-size limits, “seat time” requirements, and unnecessarily restrictive licensure policies keep schools from using the best mix of staff members and technology—a mix that could be determined by proven top teachers.

State-specific certification and licensure rules also limit the ability of teachers—including excellent ones—to teach children across state lines.

What can policymakers do? Enact policies that:

  • Provide state funding for schools as fungible lump sums, including funding for teacher pay. This will allow schools to pay for the best combination of teaching roles and technology.
  • Eliminate class-size limits for excellent teachers, or require average class-size limits across districts or schools, rather than absolute limits per classroom. This lets willing, top teachers take more students.
  • Eliminate or reduce “seat time” requirements for students to be with licensed staff, focusing on student outcomes instead. This will allow, for example, unlicensed staff to monitor digital labs, freeing funds to pay more—within budget—to the excellent teachers in charge.
  • Revise licensure rules to make excellent out-of-state teachers automatically eligible to teach. This will let excellent remotely located teachers, with supportive local staff, reach children who cannot have excellent in-person instructors.

Pay excellent teachers more

Today, statewide salary scales require pay to be based almost entirely on experience (“steps”) and degrees earned (“lanes”). Some policies leave discretion to school providers, but those providers generally implement similar scales.

Absent temporary or private funding, these scales prevent paying more to teachers whose students learn more and who reach more students.

What can policymakers do? Enact policies that:

  • Amend statewide salary scales, leaving districts and schools free to pay excellent teachers more for reaching more students within available budgets.
  • Implement state-level incentives for schools and districts that both reach more students with excellent teaching and share rewards with those teachers.

Proactively retain top teachers and offer multiple, funded career advancement opportunities

Two factors make it difficult for schools to keep their best teachers. First, during hard times, many states require that layoffs be based entirely on seniority, preventing schools from retaining excellent but less-experienced teachers. Second, school leaders have little discretion to use pay and career opportunities to keep the best teachers.

Today, the main way to advance is to become an administrator, pulling excellent teachers out of the classroom. And tenure is granted to almost all who seek it, tying up resources in pay for less-effective teachers.

What can policymakers do? Along with the policies above on salary scales and incentives, enact policies that:

  • Grant absolute protection during layoffs to excellent teachers, regardless of seniority. For example, guarantee protection to teachers who had top-25 percent results for two of the past three years OR the most recent year.
  • Give schools and districts full flexibility to establish (and pay for) advanced roles, within budget.
  • Make tenure meaningful via “elite tenure,” offered only to consistently excellent teachers who then can be empowered to choose their peers.

Build instructional and data systems

Many states are making significant progress on instructional and data systems, and these investments may prove essential for leveraging excellent teachers’ time.

However, broadband access—especially outside of school—varies widely by geography and family income.

States need to remove this barrier to online instruction, which disproportionately affects their poorest children.

What can policymakers do? Enact policies that:

  • Provide universal wireless broadband access for all students, to enable digital instruction combined with teacher-led instruction.
  • Invest in data and instructional information systems to monitor student progress and customize instruction for students.