Is It as Bad as It Looks?

A glance at how well states are working toward improving teacher quality and creating an education culture that embraces technology paints a seemingly bleak picture. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ's) analysis, not a single state’s teacher quality policy earned an overall grade of an A, whereas 18 states earned a D or an F. Digital Learning Now! gave only two states an A- for technology policy, and 14 states received F’s.

A more in-depth analysis of the rankings provided a more complete picture. 

Several indicators included in NCTQ’s teacher quality analysis clearly dragged down the overall averages. NCTQ graded states across five indicators: delivering well-prepared teachers, expanding the pool of effective teachers, identifying effective teachers, retaining effective teachers, and exiting ineffective teachers. The highest grade earned for “well-prepared teachers” was a B+, received by three states (Florida, Indiana, and Rhode Island). Only four states (Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Ohio) scored a B on “expanding the pool of effective teachers”; no states scored higher. There was a single A- (Louisiana), three B+’s, and five B’s for “identifying effective teachers;” two B+’s (Florida and Louisiana) as the high score for “retaining effective teachers;” and three A’s (Colorado, Illinois, and Oklahoma,) for “exiting ineffective teachers.” 

Put simply, the lowest marks were in preparing teachers, with slightly higher marks in evaluating them. This matches the policy emphasis of the past several years of developing and implementing teacher evaluation instruments at the state level. Essentially, there have been no commensurate reforms on the preparation side. Forward-thinking state leaders are starting to consider how to connect student performance to teacher preparation programs. In 2013, for example, Florida passed Senate Bill 1664 that connects teacher performance, as measured by student achievement, to the education school programs in which that teacher was trained, enabling the state to hold schools of education at public colleges and universities accountable for producing high-quality teachers. 

To assess openness to and use of technology, Digital Learning Now! graded state policies on how closely they aligned to “10 elements of high-quality digital learning,” which included providing equitable funding for digital learning providers, creating the necessary infrastructure within schools to support technology in the classroom, and ensuring students have access to effective digital learning options. Based on their grading scale, only six states earned a B or higher on their overall score. 

However, reexamining the individual elements was telling. For example, on the element “quality content”—which ensures that digital content and instructional materials are high quality and that districts are free to purchase online tools—41 states received A’s or A-‘s. Similarly, on the element “quality instruction”—which graded states on providing qualified digital learning teachers—29 states received an A or B and only 4 states received an F. 

For both teacher quality and technology, it was clear that the organizations responsible for the rankings held states to a purposefully high standard in order to spark a conversation. While the overall grades are low, progress is being made and a gold standard has been set for states to target. We reproduced the rankings these organizations have created in this report.