PARCA Briefs BCA on Teacher Quality and Progress in Public Education

Alabama public schools have made substantial progress in raising high school graduation rates, but must continue to improve student performance on measures of college and career readiness.

To do that, the state must sharpen its focus on the quality of public school teachers. That means recruiting talent to the profession, supporting existing teachers in a quest to continuously improve their craft, and rewarding teachers for successes. Alabama’s local school systems spent over $3 billion in 2014 providing teachers for public school classrooms, which accounted for 53 percent of core operating expenses. Teachers are the state’s largest and most important educational investment.

Strategies for improving teacher quality are detailed in a new report, Teachers Matter: Rethinking How Public Education Recruits, Rewards, and Retains Great Educators, which was released today at the Business Council of Alabama’s Governmental Affairs Conference at The Marriott Grand Hotel in Point Clear.

PARCA prepared the report for the Business Education Alliance, a 501(c)(3) foundation devoted to helping Alabama have a well-prepared workforce and a robust economy through initiatives to improve education that are brought about by collaboration between educators and business/industry.

The release of the new report was accompanied by a presentation and publication of the 2015 BEA Progress Report, which updates progress made on the state’s educational strategic plan, Plan 2020.

In 2014, PARCA prepared and presented a comprehensive look at Plan 2020, Obstacles into Opportunities, also commissioned by the BEA. That report looked at the potential benefits to the state of reaching its educational goals: a 90 percent high school graduation rate, with every graduate prepared for college and a career.

The release of Teachers Matter comes the same week as the Alabama Board of Education approved new and higher standards for the state’s teacher preparation programs. This school year, the State Department of Education is leading local systems statewide through the first year of a two-year design process for a new performance evaluation system for teachers. The new system, Educate Alabama, should be in place for the 2017-2018 school year. For the first time, this teacher performance evaluation system will include as a factor student performance on benchmark tests. Test scores will be one of multiple measures, including student surveys, self-assessment and self-improvement plans made by the teacher, as well as other factors.

Teachers Matter recommends:

–  Reviving and revising a state scholarship and incentive program for individuals willing to teach in high-need fields and hard-to-staff schools.
–  Restoring the Alabama Teacher Mentoring Program, which paired first-year teachers with veteran teachers to support the transition to teaching.
–  Sponsoring pilot programs that create new roles for teachers, creating pathways to grow and advance in the profession.
–  Restoring funding for a Rewards program to recognize schools and faculties that make significant performance improvements or consistently deliver excellent results.