SOURCE: Learning Point Associates

September 10, 2010 08:00 ET

Midwestern States Pass Significant Legislation on Teacher Evaluation but Most Lack Cohesive System for Building School Leaders

New Analysis by Learning Point Associates Reveals the Current State of Education Policies in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - September 10, 2010) -  A recent analysis of seven Midwestern states from Learning Point Associates, Managing Educator Talent: Promising Practices and Lessons From Midwestern States, found that states passed significant legislation within the last year focusing largely on teacher preparation, licensure, and evaluation. However, despite the recent legislative activity, most of the states do not have a cohesive, intentional system for developing, recruiting, and retaining effective teachers and leaders. The analysis profiles Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

From the release of the administration's A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to the announcement of the winners of the Race to the Top funding, federal education policy initiatives are focused on increasing teacher effectiveness, and more recently, principal effectiveness. This new analysis considers whether Midwestern states are poised to meet this challenge and details state policies in each of the areas related to enhancing educator effectiveness, summarizing the key findings with recommendations for states to better develop policies that work together.

"Midwestern states have some of the pieces -- but not all of the pieces -- in place to respond to the dramatic focus on teacher and principal effectiveness," said Sabrina Laine, Ph.D., chief program officer for educator effectiveness at Learning Point Associates. "Our research found that policies are often developed independently of each other. Creating effective teachers and leaders requires a collaborative and comprehensive approach that takes into account the naturally occurring connections between policies and programs, such as compensation and evaluation, or induction and professional development."

 The inventory of current Midwestern state policies revealed the following:

  • States are now playing a larger role in the areas of teacher performance management. Traditionally, districts conducted evaluations, and the terms of the evaluation were negotiated between management and unions. Now, increasingly, states set minimum requirements for what evaluations should include. All seven Midwestern states studied require staff evaluations to be based in part on student achievement on tests, graduation rates, or other objective measures. Prior to legislative activity in late 2009 and 2010, only four of the Midwestern states -- Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin -- required that teacher evaluations consider student achievement.

  • Programs geared toward recruiting, developing, and supporting school leaders do not exist to the same extent as programs for teachers, if at all. The turnaround and transformation reform models under the federal School Improvement Grant program require most low-performing schools to hire a new principal. Research confirms the importance of the school leader in influencing student achievement as well as the quality of the teaching staff.

    However, policies and initiatives aimed at addressing school leader quality are noticeably lacking compared with those that focus on teacher quality. Although six of the seven states have established standards for principals, the number and scope of policies aimed at improving the quality of school leadership is limited. For example, there are few initiatives aimed at improving the recruitment, hiring, induction, working conditions, or compensation for principals despite evidence that these factors strongly influence decisions to become school leaders.

The analysis suggests concrete steps that states can take to build wide support for a coherent set of education policies including the following:

  • Creating cross-organizational teams within state government to develop a unified vision and strategic plan for educator quality in the state.

  • Identifying all key representatives and organizations with a stake in the issues and engaging them early on and throughout the development of the policies.

The analysis also calls for states to monitor and evaluate how well their investments in increasing educator effectiveness are achieving their intended goals. The data show that states currently do not invest much time or effort in assessing the effects of specific programs or policies.

Managing Educator Talent: Promising Practices and Lessons From Midwestern States is based on data collected from a regional scan of the seven Midwestern states conducted by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest. Staff categorized those policies across the region that aligned with research-based best practices in key areas related to educator effectiveness. The data were supplemented with interviews with state personnel. http://www.learningpt.org/pdfs/MET_Promising_Practices_Regional.pdf

About Learning Point Associates
Learning Point Associates is a nationally recognized, nonprofit education research and consulting organization with 25 years of experience working with educators and policymakers to transform education systems and student learning. The organization's reputation is built on a solid foundation of designing and conducting rigorous and relevant education research and evaluations; developing and delivering tools, services, and resources targeted at pressing education issues; and analyzing and synthesizing education policy trends and practices.

Since 1984, Learning Point Associates has operated the regional educational laboratory serving the Midwest -- initially known as the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) and now known as REL Midwest. Learning Point Associates also operates the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, National Charter School Resource Center, Great Lakes East Comprehensive Center, and Great Lakes West Comprehensive Center. For more information, visit www.learningpt.org.
In August 2010, Learning Point Associates became an affiliate of American Institutes for Research.

About American Institutes for Research
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research is an independent, nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit www.air.org.

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