By Joe Farkus, NDG Contributing Writer
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and policy organization that focuses its work on supporting a vision of providing every student effective teachers in the classroom, has analyzed every state’s plan or proposed guidelines for meeting the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)’s standards. The results reflect a continued trend of most states not adequately understanding, and consequently addressing, the needs of low-income students and students of color. The long-festering issue of states and districts failing to attract qualified teachers to struggling schools and students most in need was also glaringly apparent in NCTQ’s analysis.
“States had months to develop these plans, and this problem has been going on for decades,” said Elizabeth Ross, Managing Director of State Policy for NCTQ. “These plans should have done a far better job ensuring that states, districts, and schools do not discriminate against low-income students and students of color in the quality of their teachers.”
According to the analysis, more than half of the plans submitted fail to disclose data on how many low-income students and students of color are instructed by ineffective teachers in the classroom.
Texas, specifically, was targeted for failing to lay out its definition for an ineffective teacher in its ESSA state plan, allowing independent school districts to set their own definitions for the term. NCTQ recommends the state develop guidelines for districts to follow in developing their own benchmarks for ineffective teachers to better ensure an effective standard is set. The organization also suggests the state should include in its state plan a timeline for processing data regarding inexperienced teachers – something the current plan lacks.
“The opportunities for improvement are, in many cases, significant,” Ross continued. “We hope that states will carefully review these analyses, which provide opportunities that states can use to not only strengthen their plans, but also provide greater equity in how teachers are assigned, regardless of students’ socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity.”
Despite NCTQ’s critique, Texas’s ESSA plan is receiving praise for setting ambitious goals for the state’s students. By 2030, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) intends for sixty percent of Texans between the ages of 25-34 to have a form of post-secondary education qualifications or credentials. The TEA has also set as goals: forty-six percent of Texas students reaching English proficiency by the year 2032 and an eventual goal of a 94 percent graduation rate for high school students. In addition to setting long-term goals for achievement, the agency has proposed a variety of initiatives and strategies involving input and engagement from both parents and community groups to achieve them.
While other states were applauded in NCTQ’s report for proposing “several promising practices”, the majority of plans were found in need of significant changes and lacking in effective strategies to ensure students of all backgrounds have access to qualified and effective teachers in the classroom.
NCTQ’s assessment of Texas’s ESSA state plan can be found here.