The Education Trust-West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college.

Effective Teachers

Effective Teachers

California’s most vulnerable students are disproportionately taught by less effective teachers, and they often attend schools with a revolving door of teachers and administrators. This is no accident. State laws promote unfair local practices such as seniority-based layoffs, which force districts to lay off the most recently hired teachers when reductions are necessary. Laws like this protect the status quo to the detriment of high-poverty students and communities.

For several years now, there has been heated debate in Sacramento around whether and how these laws, as well as laws governing the teacher evaluation system, should be fixed. Too often, opinion-makers characterize these discussions as pitting adult interests against student interests. We believe that changes to one-size-fits-all laws that mandate bureaucratic processes such as seniority-based layoffs are in the interests of both students and teachers.

Both our research and a rising chorus of teacher voices tell us that educators want to improve their craft and stay in the profession and that they welcome the implementation of multiple measure evaluation systems. We also believe that many educators want to work and stay in our highest need schools and neighborhoods.

Our state and district leaders should build upon this enthusiasm. California should reform our state’s teacher evaluation laws and incentivize our most effective teachers to work in our highest need schools and communities. Particularly as baby boomers retire, state and district leaders must draw new college graduates into teaching careers. In our increasingly diverse state, they must, in particular, focus on attracting our best and brightest college graduates of color into teaching. Education leaders must improve working conditions in high-need schools by creating stable, supportive, and collaborative work environments. To that end, state leaders must stop forcing district leaders to send pink slips to great but less experienced teachers while retaining less effective teachers with more seniority. And our laws that make it nearly impossible to dismiss even a grossly ineffective teacher must be changed.

In doing so, we can offer every student access to great teachers.

In order to ensure equitable access to great teachers, we recommend that state leaders:

  1. Create incentives for teachers to enter the profession, work at high-poverty schools, and teach hard-to-staff subject areas.
  2. Although California is producing enough new teachers each year to fill vacancies, there are breaks and leaks in the pipeline. Many high-poverty schools face shortages of teachers, and some subject areas such as special education and the science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM”) fields are particularly hard to staff. California needs to invest in building a stronger teacher pipeline, with a focus on bringing effective teachers and those with specialized content knowledge into the neediest neighborhoods. Expand programs like 100Kin10, a national effort to increase the supply of STEM teachers by securing commitments from partner universities and organizations. Expand the availability of scholarships, stipends, loan cancellations, and other support for teacher candidates who commit to teach in underserved communities. Offer incentive bonuses to teachers who wish to transfer to high-need schools. Expand teacher induction and loan-forgiveness programs for new teachers, especially those entering our neediest schools, even when those teachers may be entering the profession with a temporary credential. Focus particular attention on recruiting students of color into our teacher credential programs, as teachers of color are significantly under-represented in our schools.

  3. Provide teachers with rigorous and ongoing evaluation, development, and support.
  4. We must build work environments in our highest poverty schools that are designed to retain and support teachers, particularly early career teachers. This begins by staffing our neediest schools with top leaders. To achieve this, the state must improve principal recruitment, preparation, support, and evaluation. The state must also incentivize districts to assign the most effective principals to the highest need schools. In addition, every teacher should receive meaningful feedback every year. California should develop a statewide framework to guide districts’ adoption of improved teacher evaluation systems based on multiple measures of performance. State leaders can build off the many promising models already being implemented in California districts and charter management organizations. This evaluation system should be coupled with a system of individualized and ongoing professional development that provides teachers with the strategies, mentoring, and support they need to grow as professionals. Finally, we should develop career pathway programs that allow our most promising and accomplished teachers to step into mentor or master teacher roles so they can take on more responsibilities while staying in the profession.

  5. Require that districts ensure the equitable distribution of effective teachers, and offer district leaders the flexibility they need to achieve this.
  6. The state should demand that districts provide every student and school equal and increased access to great teachers. Districts should be required to develop systems for monitoring the distribution of teachers by effectiveness, not just experience and credentials, and they should be required to incorporate these data into their Local Control and Accountability Plans as part of the “basic services” priority area. In order to ensure a fair distribution of high-quality teachers, the state should remove provisions in state law that require districts to base staff placement, layoff, and tenure decisions solely on years of experience. Districts should be tasked with developing multiple-measure evaluation systems, and they should use the resulting teacher effectiveness data in place of seniority alone when making layoff and other personnel decisions. Finally, the state should streamline the dismissal process so that principals and district leaders can remove grossly ineffective teachers.

 

Publications on Effective Teachers

Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, and Valerie Cuevas, interim executive director of The Education Trust–West, on the Vergara v. California Decision

WASHINGTON (June 10, 2014) — We are delighted with today’s ruling in Vergara v. California. Judge Treu's historic decision affirms what we have long known to be true: Low-income students and students of color in California are denied access to equal educational opportunities. The decision will force California to address the reality that our most vulnerable students are less likely to have access to effective teachers. We are eager, therefore, to work with policymakers, educators, and community leaders to take advantage of this opportunity to develop employment systems that put the needs of every student front and center.

Beyond Satisfactory: Redefining Teacher Support and Evaluation to Improve Teaching and Learning

The Education Trust—West releases initial findings from a two-year study examining innovative teacher evaluation systems in a new report titled, Beyond Satisfactory: Redefining Teacher Support and Evaluation to Improve Teaching and Learning. The report reveals that teachers and administrators generally experience the evaluation process as an objective and constructive opportunity to reflect on and improve their instruction in order to best serve all students. These systems offer teachers support in ways that are connected with teachers’ deep desires to ensure their students will achieve at high levels. The report also highlights promising practices, and it offers recommendations for improving teacher evaluation and support in California. 

Publication date: 
May 22 2014

New Ed Trust—West Study Finds Promising Practices for Reimagining Teacher Evaluation in California

OAKLAND, CA (May 22, 2014) – The Education Trust—West releases initial findings from a two-year study examining innovative teacher evaluation systems in a new report titled, Beyond Satisfactory: Redefining Teacher Support and Evaluation to Improve Teaching and Learning.

Broad Coalition of Education Stakeholders Opposes AB 5

OAKLAND, CA (August 22, 2012)A broad group of reform minded school districts, education advocacy and civil rights organizations have come together to oppose California Assembly Bill 5.  AB 5 guts all objective accountability on adult job performance in public schools while undermining local authority and adds new unfunded state mandates of over $50 million.

New Education Trust—West Study Reveals Stunning Inequities in Access to Effective Teachers for Latino, African-American and Low-Income Students in Nation’s Second Largest School District

OAKLAND, CA (January 12, 2012) – Today, The Education Trust—West releases the findings of a two- year-long study of data from the second largest school district in the nation, revealing profound inequities in access to effective teaching.  In Learning Denied: The Case for Equitable Access to Effective Teaching in California’s Largest School District, The Education Trust—West finds that low-income students and students of color in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are less likely to be taught by the district’s top teachers – the very teachers capable of closing the district’s achievement gaps. These inequities are exacerbated by teacher mobility patterns and quality-blind layoffs.

Learning Denied: The Case for Equitable Access to Effective Teaching in California’s Largest School District

Today, The Education Trust—West releases the findings of a two- year-long study of data from the second largest school district in the nation, revealing profound inequities in access to effective teaching. In Learning Denied: The Case for Equitable Access to Effective Teaching in California’s Largest School District, The Education Trust—West finds that low-income students and students of color in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are less likely to be taught by the district’s top teachers – the very teachers capable of closing the district’s achievement gaps. These inequities are exacerbated by teacher mobility patterns and quality-blind layoffs.

Publication date: 
January 12 2012

Teaching Counts: Recommendations for Reforming California's Teacher Evaluation System

Parents know what researchers confirm: The single most important school-based factor affecting student academic performance is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.

Teachers matter because when they have high expectations of their students, their students rise to meet them. Teachers count because they not only play an important role in raising student achievement, but they also have the potential to close long-standing achievement gaps that persist between low-income students and students of color and their more advantaged peers. Teachers matter to all students, but great teaching makes the most difference for our highest need students, who are least likely to have academic supports outside of school. 

Publication date: 
January 2 2012

Improving Teacher Evaluation in California

Most teachers say they teach because they love their students, and because they love helping them to learn. And it shows. Research shows that the single most important school-based factor in improving student academic performance is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. Students who have strong teachers year after year soar academically. 

Unfortunately, too many teachers—from those who are the best in the state to those who are growing professionally— receive limited feedback, whether it is praise for a job well done or constructive feedback to help them grow in their craft. 

Publication date: 
November 17 2011

Improving Teacher Evaluation in California

Most teachers say they teach because they love their students, and because they love helping them to learn. And it shows. Research shows that the single most important school-based factor in improving student academic performance is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. Students who have strong teachers year after year soar academically. 

More than Just Seniority: Tools to Help You Fight for the Rights of Students and Communities

By now, you are probably well aware that nearly 20,000 California teachers received a layoff notice telling them that they may be out of a job in the fall. State law requires districts to issue teacher layoffs based on seniority—how long they’ve been teaching.  This means that newer teachers are more likely to be laid off first regardless of how effective they are in the classroom or the needs of their school and community.