Boost Teacher Quality.

Attract, train, develop and support new teachers and principals.

Without high-quality teachers and leaders, even the best-designed curriculum or most robust assessment system will not increase learning or achievement. In fact, there is increasing evidence that of all school resources, teachers have the greatest impact on student achievement. Therefore, the transformation of Connecticut’s schools hinges on preparing, retaining and developing excellent teachers and leaders.

Recruit teachers and leaders who have the knowledge, skills and dispositions to transform education.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

As children come to school with increased learning and health needs, teachers and leaders are asked to perform an expanding array of tasks. These teachers and leaders, also known as “human capital,”will take on increased importance as we work to make students’ learning more rigorous and relevant.

We must tap the knowledge and skills of all capable individuals who are committed to transforming students’ learning. In addition, we must improve human capital in our system by making substantial changes to school and district recruitment, preparation, retention and development. This systematic approach to improving human capital will result in enhanced learning and increased achievement for children.

Actions Needed

  • Develop multiple paths to teacher, school and district leader certification to reduce barriers to becoming an educator without lowering standards or responding to supply and demand fluctuations.
  • Grant certification to teachers and school and district leaders based on demonstrated competency, not on degrees earned.
  • Actively recruit and provide incentives to attract underrepresented populations to teaching and leadership positions.

Prepare teachers and leaders through forward-thinking programs that emphasize how to teach, learn and lead in a transformed system and assign them to positions that capitalize on their strengths.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

For too long, many educator preparation programs have failed to:

  • Equip teachers and leaders with the skills they need to prepare students for the complex demands of living in the 21st century.
  • Prepare teachers to meet the needs of a shifting population of students.
  • Assign personnel to positions based on skills and competencies.
    In order to transform education in Connecticut, preparation programs must be adapted to meet the changing needs of society and the demands on teachers, classrooms and schools.

Actions Needed

  • Provide significant amount of clinical experiences for prospective teachers and principals in training.
  • Focus teacher preparation on richer instructional and leadership skills as well as on meeting the needs of children with diverse backgrounds.
  • Make sure training includes how to create conditions for high-quality instruction that results in children achieving standards.
  • Structure the first year in a teaching or leadership position as an internship with strong, consistent coaching by experienced professionals committed to transformation.
  • Make professional learning opportunities for teachers and school or district leaders part of their jobs. Configure schedules to give teachers time to collaborate with peers on student performance and share effective teaching or leadership practices.
  • Ensure that the state provides districts and schools with the working conditions and resources to support a transformed educational system. In particular, working conditions and resources must serve low income children and should be on par with those in settings that serve higher-income peers.
  • Make sure teachers and education leaders receive competitive compensation and incentives in order to attract and retain talented individuals who are sought by other sectors.
  • Create incentives for teachers and school and district leaders who successfully work in systems that serve a high percentage of low-income children.

Retain quality teachers and leaders through mentoring, ongoing learning opportunities and appropriate compensation.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

The learning curve for new teachers and district leaders is considerable. Yet, mentoring for new teachers and leaders, which could reduce this learning curve, is often haphazard and provides few supports for novices. A strong program of mentoring and ongoing support would enable beginning teachers andleaders to become high-quality instructors more rapidly.

Teacher compensation should also be reviewed. For years, teachers have been recognized and rewarded for endurance, not effectiveness. To attract and retain individuals whose skills are valued, we must offer compensation that’s not only competitive but also differentiated based on demonstrated skills,competencies and results.

Actions Needed

  • Structure first-year teaching and leadership positions as internships with strong, consistent coaching by experienced teachers and leaders committed to transformation.
  • Support professional learning and collaboration opportunities for teachers and school/district leaders to share effective teaching and leadership practices.
  • Link evaluations for professional educators to incentives for high performers and consequences for low performers.
  • Dismiss teachers and leaders whose performance is consistently poor—and transition these individuals out of education for the benefit of other districts and students.
  • Base reduction-in-force decisions for teachers or leaders on performance, student achievement and professional activity—not solely on seniority.
  • Expand opportunities for educators to have access to technology-based content, resources and tools where and when they need them.

Evaluate and supervise teachers and leaders to provide accurate information about their performance.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

Transforming education to a more learner-centered process will require that all educators perform at highly competent levels. Unfortunately, the current system of evaluation calls for infrequent observations, poor feedback from administrators and the absence of consequences. To exert the greatest influence onteaching and learning, observations and evaluations should: 1) be more frequent, 2) result in higher-quality feedback and 3) entail real consequences. Teachers and leaders who perform at high levels should be recognized and rewarded; those who don’t should receive sanctions.

Actions Needed

  • Create a standards-based evaluation system for teachers and leaders that includes regular reviews of performance based on standards.
  • Tie evaluations directly to growth in student learning and the demonstration of professional skills.
  • Give peer review of performance a role in the evaluation systems for teachers and school and district leaders.

Revise tenure law to include a rigorous, standards-based review process more closely tied to student learning.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

In the current system, tenure is a lifetime contract that districts can terminate only if they can prove to an arbitration panel and judge that an educator is incompetent, immoral and/or insubordinate. The contracts of educators whose performance is competent but mediocre are difficult to terminate—and those educators remain in the classroom.

Pre-tenure years must include a standards-based performance appraisal conducted by a well-trained supervisor and peer evaluator. Tenure would then be granted based on high-level performance. Renewable contracts would give districts the opportunity to remove educators whose performance does not rise above the mediocre level.

Action Needed

  • Offer educators five-year contracts, which districts may or may not renew, after they show outstanding performance in child learning.

Take advantage of technology to advance professional learning.

Why This Recommendation Is Important

The importance of using technology to support personalized learning and motivate students continues to increase with each new class of students. Therefore, special attention must be given to all teachers andleaders to ensure that they are comfortable with and skilled in using technology.

  • Expand opportunities for educators to have technology-based content, resources and tools where and when they need them.
  • Use social networking to enhance career-long learning for educators within and across schools.
  • Provide all learners with online access to effective teaching and better learning options, particularly inplaces where they are not otherwise available.