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Educator Quality

Strategy No. 1 in A Blueprint For Great Schools report from the Transition Advisory Team dated August 9, 2011.

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There is growing recognition that expert teachers and school leaders are perhaps the most important resource for improving student learning, and the highest-achieving nations make substantial investments in them. A McKinsey study of 25 of the world's school systems, including 10 of the top performers, found that investments in teachers and teaching are central to improving student outcomes. They found that the top school systems emphasize (1) getting the right people to become teachers; (2) developing them into effective instructors; and (3) ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child.9

These systems offer high-quality preparation to a highly selected cadre of entrants, completely free to candidates with a salary while they train; equitable salaries and teaching conditions; universal access to high-quality mentoring and professional development; 15 to 25 hours a week of collaborative planning and learning time embedded in the teaching schedule; and opportunities to take on professional leadership roles throughout their careers.

U.S. federal investments in teacher quality are, by contrast, quite paltry—having declined substantially since the 1970s—and state investments are highly unequal. These problems and inequities are prominent in California. As a result:

This lack of investment is particularly problematic given the expectations of much higher levels of learning for today's students. Teachers now need not only deep and flexible knowledge of the content areas they teach. They also need to know how children learn, the different ways in which they learn, how to adapt instruction for the needs of ELs and students with special needs, how to assess learning continuously, and how to work collectively with parents and colleagues to build strong school programs.

These concerns about teachers' access to knowledge are replicated for school leaders. A recent study of California principals14 found that school leaders in this state are deeply committed, but much less likely to have had a supervised internship as part of their preparation or to have access to mentoring or coaching in their work than principals in other states. They are less likely to have access to a principal's network, or to participate regularly with teachers in professional development — a practice associated with strong instructional leadership .They reported that their professional development experiences were less useful to improving their practice than principals did nationally.

The critical need for investments in teacher and principal learning has been made clear over and over again in school reform efforts. Those who have worked to improve schools have found that every aspect of school reform — the creation of more challenging curriculum, the use of more thoughtful assessments, the invention of new model schools and programs — depends on skilled educators who are well-supported in healthy school organizations. In the final analysis, there are no policies that can improve schools if the people in them are not armed with the knowledge and skills they need.

Educator Quality Key Recommendations

The Transition Team's recommendations aim to create a future in which California has a stable, uniformly high-quality teaching and leadership workforce from preschool through high school.

In this system, teachers and leaders are well-prepared, well-supported, and work in collaborative environments .Schools, districts and higher education institutions collaborate to provide high-quality, comprehensive teacher and leader preparation programs. Teachers and leaders are evaluated based on meaningful professional standards integrated with evidence of student learning. Teacher and leader evaluations are used to inform professional development. And a high-quality, widely available professional development infrastructure exists in California to support educators across their careers. To accomplish this, CDE should work with the State Board of Education and the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing to:


9. Michael Barber & M. Mourshed, How the world's best-performing school systems come out on top. London: McKinsey and Company, 2007.

10. Bland, J., Tiffany-Morales, J., Shields, P., Woodworth, K., Campbell, A., Sherer, D., & Rodezno, S. (2010). California's Teaching Force 2010: Key issues and trends. Santa Cruz, CA: The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.

11. Bland, et al. (2010). California's teaching force 2010.

12. Based on estimates of teacher turnover costs from the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future.

13. See, for instance, K. Futernick (2007). A possible dream: Retaining California's teachers so all students learn. Sacramento: California State University.

14. L. Darling-Hammond & S. Orphanos (2006). Leadership Development in California. Stanford University: Institute for Research on Educational Policy and Practice.

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