States’ Sense of Urgency to Improve Teacher Policies Grinds to a Halt

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has released its biannual 2017 State Teacher Policy Yearbook (Yearbook), which finds that the rapid progress made by states over the last decade to modernize their teacher policies has largely slowed. Since the last edition of the Yearbook in 2015, few states have initiated any new actions to improve their teacher policies guiding how teachers are selected, prepared, evaluated, and retained.

Florida and Louisiana are this year’s top performing states, each earning a B+. Overall, however, the 2017 Yearbook finds that state grades have mostly stagnated, with more state grades decreasing than at any other time in the Yearbook’s 10-year history.  

Some specific areas of deficit merit attention by states:

  • Invest in data systems to address issues relating to teacher shortages and surpluses. Despite the alarming talk of teacher shortages, few states are collecting and connecting the full set of high-quality data necessary to support their districts in making fact-based decisions regarding targeted, local solutions to address teacher supply and demand issues, and no state has established clear parameters that govern the number of teachers trained in each major certification area.
  • Increase transparency regarding educator equity to ensure that vulnerable student groups are not systemically underserved by ineffective teachers. Fewer than one third of all states collect and publicly report all necessary data to identify where traditionally underserved students do not have equitable access to effective teachers.
  • Expand diversity in the teaching workforce. Fewer than half of all states are taking any concrete action to increase teacher diversity under a specific initiative, incentive program, or system of supports.
  • Increase oversight of teacher preparation programs. Fewer than half of all states articulate minimum standards of performance for teacher preparation programs, and among states that do maintain minimum performance standards, even fewer have articulated consequences for programs that do not meet such standards.
  • Improve the preparation of special education teachers. Only nine states require teacher candidates in elementary special education to possess basic content knowledge before they can earn a license, and only 12 states measure special education candidates’ knowledge of how to teach reading, even though reading difficulties are the most common reason for special education referrals.
  • Fully utilize teacher evaluation systems. Only 10 states explicitly require that evaluation results inform teacher compensation in some manner, and only 11 states explicitly require teacher leadership opportunities to be reserved only for highly rated teachers.

Information regarding whether each state meets the above policies is available at: