Spotlight on Student Access to Great Teachers
The Obama administration recently unveiled “Excellent Educators for All,” a 50-State Strategy to address teacher equity. The initiative seeks to tackle a complex issue and ensure that all students, regardless of income or race, have equitable access to excellent teachers. The new initiative means three big things for states:
1. Individual Plans: States will create individual plans to address equity (or fairness) of students’ access to the best teachers.
2. Assistance and Support: The U.S. Education Department will spend more than $4 million on a technical assistance network to help states develop and implement their plans
3. Public Transparency: The U.S. Education Department will publish “Educator Equity Profiles,” flagging states where effective teachers aren’t reaching at-risk children, and noting schools and districts excelling in equalizing access to excellent teachers.
Delaware is one of a handful of states and districts that have taken the first steps of conducting a state-wide appraisal of this issue and is beginning to address inequities. The Delaware Department of Education partnered with the Harvard Strategic Data project to conduct an analysis of Delaware educators, finding that high-needs schools face higher rates of teacher turnover; high-poverty schools have larger shares of novice teachers than low-poverty schools; and the least academically prepared students are more likely to be placed with the most inexperienced teachers. Delaware has begun focusing on addressing these inequities by implementing the Delaware Talent Cooperative—a program to attract and retain strong teachers in high-need schools through additional compensation, recognition, professional development, and leadership opportunities.
The “Excellent Educators for All” initiative, and the supports it provides, may be an opportunity for Delaware to lead the way on addressing teacher equity and to build upon momentum from broader state efforts to elevate the teaching profession—developing and rewarding excellent teachers. A few examples of how Delaware is working towards elevating the teaching profession include:
- Raising the bar on teacher preparation programs and requirements;
- Developing more robust data systems to learn more about the current state of the educator workforce and inform policy;
- Implementing a strong teacher evaluation system (DPAS II), to better identify, develop, support, and reward excellent teachers, as well as piloting improvements to the teacher performance evaluations; and
- Developing pipelines to recruit strong teachers and leaders to serve high-needs populations (Teach For America, Delaware Alternative Routes Program, and the Delaware Leadership Project).
Delaware is moving in the right direction, but more progress is needed to ensure that all students have access to excellent teachers and reach their full potential. In order to fully address this issue, and ensure that all students have access to excellent educational opportunities, we need an education system that encourages excellent teachers to want to teach in high-needs schools. In other words, what potential incentives are necessary to build, attract, support, and keep our best teachers in high-needs schools? Education stakeholders from across the state are wrestling with this question, and many others, as they work towards developing a shared vision and plan to make this a reality. The Vision Coalition of Delaware is engaging Delawareans to develop ED25 (short for “A Vision for Education in Delaware in 2025”), a draft plan to better prepare students for a lifetime of success To meet this goal, some potential strategies that have surfaced in the draft vision include:
- Cultivating strong leadership and management at the school-level that sets a positive culture of high expectations and teacher development; and
- Designing career pathways and compensation structures that illustrate opportunities for teachers to grow and serve in leadership roles.
Delawareans are invited to weigh in on the draft vision, sharing insights on strategies to ensure all students have access to excellent educational opportunities, preparing them for a lifetime of success.