We spent the day in Springfield on Tuesday, October 11, for the release of a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) on teacher policies in the Springfield Public Schools. Among the key findings were that improving the teacher evaluation system so that all teachers get feedback is critical, seniority rules are hurting new teacher recruitment, and the $127 million the district spends on compensation must be used more strategically.
The in-depth study,Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in Springfield, was sponsored by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) and Springfield Business Leaders for Education. Designed as a tool to highlight what is and is not working in our local schools, the report identifies local and state legislative reforms that would facilitate district efforts to recruit and retain highly effective teachers.
Study findings include:
- Principal’s authority to build their own team and decide who teaches in their school buildings is limited. The district “force places” teachers into vacancies, instead of assignment by “mutual consent” of the principal and teacher that the placement is a good fit.
- Springfield’s leave package, at effectively 19.5 days, exceeds what is offered in comparable districts. In the 2009-2010 school year teachers were absent an average of 15 days, approximately one day every 2-1/2 weeks. Teacher absenteeism has been linked to learning losses for children.
- Springfield is revising its evaluation policies, largely due to new state regulations. Recent data shows that all but 0.6 percent of teachers evaluated received satisfactory or better ratings. Most problematic is that evaluations failed to factor in the most important measure of teachers’ effectiveness: their impact on student learning.
- As in most districts, the decision to award tenure is largely automatic with principals basing their decisions on the results of the current, weak evaluation tool where all teachers virtually are labeled satisfactory or exemplary.
- Salaries and lifetime earnings are lower in Springfield than in surrounding districts, making it difficult to attract highly effective teachers.
MBAE commissioned this study because having an effective teacher in every classroom is critical for improving student learning. Research has shown that teacher quality is the single most important school-controlled variable that influences student achievement. A 2002 study found that having a highly effective teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background.