Smart money: What teachers make, how long it takes and what it buys them

SmartMoney_Infographic_resized_424810Districts across the country use wildly different salary scales for compensating teachers – and a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality does the math on what that means for career educators. NCTQ even factors in the cost of living to come up with some eye-popping statistics. For instance: A teacher at the top of the salary scale in Columbus, Ohio has more than four times the earning power of an equally veteran teacher in New York City. The report also finds that it takes teachers 24 years, on average, to reach their maximum pay. That’s a much longer time frame than in other professions. But that average masks a wide variation – it can take as little as seven years (in Boston) or as long as three decades (in Wichita) for teachers to reach an annual salary of $75,000.

Pay-for-performance systems also vary widely, the study found. In the District of Columbia and Pittsburgh, top-notch teachers can quickly race to the top of the salary scale. That’s not the case in several Louisiana districts that use merit pay systems. In Caddo Parish, for example, an exemplary teacher can expect to earn only marginally more than an average teacher over his/her career. The NCTQ’s conclusion: “School district leaders, teachers and policy makers must invest in redesigning salary structures if they want to shape teaching into the sustainable career it deserves to be.”

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December Issue Brief: Open Educational Resources

In Case You Missed It!In today’s information age, educational resources are being shared on an unprecedented scale. Common standards facilitate this sharing across districts and states, and national organizations and non-profits are beginning to develop open educational resources (OERs) for widespread use. While OERs are becoming more prevalent, how can educators locate materials that are worth one’s time and attention?

In this month’s issue brief, we focus on online instructional and assessment resources for educators, pulling together some of our favorites for you.
We’d love to hear what other resources you have found to be most useful. What are your go-to instructional resources? Please respond to our call for commentary.

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New SLO Resources from the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders

gtl-logoIn today’s contentious education debates, Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) offer a compelling middle ground that provides rigor and concrete data yet in a way that accommodates student needs. The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) has several new resources available for education leaders to use in order to take full advantage of the SLO model.

New Professional Learning Module Supplements: Designed to complement their full-length module, Introduction to Student Learning Objectives , these supplements provide student learning objectives (SLOs) materials and resources for teachers of career and technical education (CTE) courses and offer information on SLO scoring strategies.

Student Learning Objectives: Considerations for Teachers of Career and Technical Education Courses

Are you looking for SLO resources to assist teachers who provide instruction in CTE courses? State leaders and regional center staff can use this supplement to support district-level staff new to SLOs and in the early stages of SLO implementation for teachers of CTE courses. This supplement will teach you about:

  • SLO cycles
  • Considerations for crafting high-quality SLOs for teachers of CTE courses
  • Technical and implementation challenges for teachers of CTE courses

Scoring Student Learning Objectives

Do you need help making decisions on SLO scoring approaches? This supplement supports states in policymaking decisions on SLO scoring and combining SLO scores. States can use this supplement for internal decision making, or you can modify the materials for meetings or workshops with districts. In this supplement, you will learn about the following:

  • Approaches to scoring individual SLOs
  • Approaches to combining SLO scores
  • Benefits and considerations for each scoring approach

Each supplement provides more than three hours of material, including hands-on activities, which can be adapted and customized to your state’s context and needs. Download PDF copies, or request copies of the materials in Word format by sending an e-mail to

New Ask the Team! Balancing Autonomy and Comparability: State Approaches to Assessment Selection for Student Learning Objectives

States take a wide range of approaches to SLO assessment selection. This Ask the Team brief helps states consider the trade-offs between approaches that offer more teacher choice and those that offer more comparability across SLOs. This brief identifies four common approaches to selecting SLO assessments:

  1. The teacher or teacher team chooses the assessment(s) to use in SLOs.
  2. The state or district provides assessment criteria or a bank of available assessment options.
  3. The state or district provides a list of required assessments.
  4. The state or district requires that SLOs be based on common assessments.

In addition to the benefits and challenges of each approach, you will read about state and district examples from the field.

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New Evaluation & Support Briefs from Education First

Education. First. - Education FirstTeachers need ongoing, targeted supports to be effective. That’s why district and state leaders across the country are changing how they evaluate and support teachers. Over the past three years, 16 states have changed their teacher evaluation policies, with another 28 poised to do so in the next few years.

It is well known that challenges abound. Less well known are the innovative solutions leading states and districts have devised to propel their reform efforts forward. In a series of briefs titled Evaluation & Support: Strategies for Success, Education First, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has compiled such implementation success stories. Each brief tackles a key aspect of these efforts and provides state and district leaders with practical advice and recommendations. The first three briefs cover Classroom Observations, Student Surveys, and Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). Education First will release the final three briefs–on Professional Learning, Communications and Engagement, and Using Data from Multiple Measures–in coming months.

Introduction to the Series

Brief 1: Classroom Observations

Brief 2: Student Surveys

Brief 3: Student Learning Objectives

The organization encourages use of the briefs to guide evaluation work, or to support the work of state and district policymakers. Stay tuned for the final three briefs of the series!

For more information, please visit:


Equitable Access Toolkit to Guide State Educator Equity Planning

gtl-logoRecently, the U.S. Department of Education released the FAQ guidance for states as they develop plans to ensure equitable access to excellent educators for students from low-income families and students of color. The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) is pleased to launch the Equitable Access Toolkit to support states in this work. The toolkit includes the following:

Moving Toward Equity Stakeholder Engagement Guide

The stakeholder engagement guide is designed to support states in planning and putting into action effective strategies to engage critical stakeholders—early, often, authentically, and constructively. The guide includes step-by-step guidance for short- and long-term stakeholder engagement planning that will work in your state’s specific context.

Data Review Tool

Data drives the equitable access planning process. State education leaders need to examine the most meaningful equitable access metrics and ensure that plans are in place for improving data quality. This tool is designed specifically to help state leaders assess, analyze, and communicate their data and tell a story about equity gaps in their states.

Root-Cause Analysis Workbook

Improving equitable access requires first drilling down to the root causes of equity gaps specific to your state’s context. This workbook supports state leaders in pinpointing the core challenges so that strategies and resources can be targeted toward them. Through a series of eight strategic steps, state teams can investigate the underlying causes of equity gaps and collaboratively brainstorm how best to take action.

Time to Reboot Educator Equity Plans

What are the main challenges states must be mindful of as they develop new equitable access plans? Jane Coggshall, principal researcher at American Institutes for Research, identifies four issues hindering equitable access in a blog post:

  1. Limited focus targeting high-need schools in state equitable access plans
  2. Recruitment challenges within localized teacher labor markets
  3. School-level factors, such as budgets and teacher-principal relations
  4. Imperfect educator evaluation systems

For more information, please visit:

For the U.S. Department of Education FAQ guidance  for equitable access, see:


Free Resource for Students and Parents Preparing for College

khan academy college resourceKhan Academy has a new resource for helping students and parents navigate the college admissions process.

It includes video interviews and conversations with successful students from all walks of life and admissions officers and counselors at some of the nation’s top schools. One of the best features is “Making High School Count,” which talks students through important elements of the high school experience such as course selection, extracurricular activities, and standardized tests.

This resource, offered completely free and without ads, as is all content at Khan Academy, can be especially beneficial to students and families who do not have much experience with the college process.

Check it out at:


Achieve Releases Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

ngssAchieve recently announced the release of Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks for middle and high school grades. These sample tasks, written by secondary science and math teachers, provide examples of how content and practices from both the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Mathematics can be assessed together in classrooms.

“It is an exciting time in science education,” said Ben Twietmeyer, a chemistry teacher from Illinois. “We are moving from primarily only teaching science content to developing students’ knowledge and science skills. Focusing on evidence based explanations and application, these tasks pull together the big ideas of the NGSS and Common Core Math Standards.”

Each task focuses on a specific context or storyline and includes multiple components that work together to partially or fully assess a bundle of chosen standards (i.e., a group of related standards from the NGSS and CCSS). The purpose of these sample tasks is to provide some examples of how to meaningfully integrate the NGSS and CCSS in authentic ways in the context of classroom assessment. Although the tasks were originally developed to integrate CCSS-Mathematics and the NGSS, CCSS-ELA/Literacy alignments were also added in response to requests from states and educators to support literacy work across disciplines.

“Working with a science teacher broadened my understanding of writing and teaching integrated tasks,” said Jennifer Abler, a high school math teacher from Michigan. “We spent a great deal of time discussing what integrated really means. It’s not teaching math and science parallel to one another but using the skills of each content area to strengthen the understanding of the content of both subjects.”

Educators are encouraged to modify these tasks for their needs and to provide Achieve’s Science Team with feedback for task improvement. The tasks released are drafts and will be revised to incorporate user feedback. Achieve anticipates releasing revised drafts of the tasks as well as the first round of Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks for elementary grades in the coming months.

To aid educators in their own task development, the front matter of the Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks provides information about the task development process so additional tasks can be created to assess a bundle of both math and science standards.

“We are very pleased to make these sample tasks available to educators and look forward to seeing continued integration of the NGSS and CCSS,” said Stephen Pruitt, Senior Vice President at Achieve. “There is tremendous opportunity for teachers and curriculum designers to bundle standards from different content areas to bring about deeper cross-disciplinary student understanding. We hope these tasks will be a starting point for ongoing conversations among educators in different disciplines.”

Achieve convened the educators who developed the tasks as part of its ongoing work to provide resources to states in support of NGSS adoption and implementation.

The Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks can be accessed at:


Brief: Understanding Conscientiousness and Its Role in Improved Student Achievement

Mcrel-LogoIn today’s rapidly changing global economy, “21st century skills” means much more than proficiency in basic academic subjects. One of the most important non-cognitive competencies for student success is conscientiousness, which encompasses traits such as perseverance, self-regulation, resilience, and responsibility. This policy brief provides an overview of conscientiousness and its relationship to student achievement, and presents issues for policymakers to consider.

Key Ideas:

Researchers have found that conscientiousness and its related 21st century skills are better predictors of student success than any other personality trait. This brief looks at the formative experiences and interventions that promote conscientiousness in the classroom as well as outside of the classroom, in professional development, educator preparation programs, and through parent/family support training. The authors give examples of steps that some states and districts have already taken and offer questions and recommendations for others to consider in terms of 1) supporting educators, 2) building parent capacity, and 3) enhancing existing research and resources.

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Reducing the Principal Turnover Rate

School Leaders Network --- Connect - Lead - SucceedOver the years, various research studies have suggested that teachers have the greatest school-based effect on student achievement. In recent years, however, the crucial role of principals has also been made clearer by research. So, how does principal turnover harm students?

The turnover rate for principals is higher than nearly any other white-collar profession, with half leaving their school after three years and fewer than 30 percent remaining at a single school for more than five years.

That’s according to a report from the School Leaders Network, which finds that many principals feel isolated, overwhelmed and unsupported in the job. The report estimates that reducing principal turnover by 25 percent could save the public school system $163 million a year – and might even boost student achievement. Math and reading test scores tend to drop the year after a principal departs, the study finds. States with the highest turnover and the most rookie principals include North Carolina, Rhode Island, California, Nevada and New Mexico.

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The Equity Project: Does Paying Teachers $125,000 Make a Difference?

TEP_imageThe Equity Project Charter School in New York City is well known for the salary it pays its teachers —  $125,000 of public funds available to all public charter schools. The question of course is what that sort of salary for teachers can accomplish.

In a new study, Mathematica describes The Equity Project (TEP) charter school’s instructional and personnel strategies, examines student characteristics and attrition rates, and reports impacts on student achievement during the school’s first four years.

Mathematica found that by the end of the 2012-2013 school year, TEP’s impacts on student achievement were consistently positive across subjects and cohorts, with especially large effects in math.

Following is a short breakdown of the results:

  • TEP’s impacts on student achievement were consistently positive across subjects and cohorts, with especially large effects in math.
  • Using benchmarks for average annual learning gains, students who attended TEP for four years had test score gains equal to an additional 1.6 years of school in math, an additional 0.4 years of school in English language arts, and an additional 0.6 years of school in science, compared to similar students in comparable New York City public schools.
  • TEP’s cumulative effect on student achievement over four years is approximately equivalent to 78% of the Hispanic-white achievement gap in math, 17% of the Hispanic-white gap in English language arts, and 25% of the Hispanic-white gap in science, using another relevant benchmark.

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