NEPC Review: 2018 State Teacher Policy Best Practices Guide (National Council on Teacher Quality, March 2018)
A report from NCTQ begins with nine goals purportedly based on the “best available research evidence” about teacher quality. Yet neither this report nor its companion, which describes the original development of the goals, cites any research evidence. The report also uses the terms “teacher quality” and “teacher effectiveness” (on raising test scores) interchangeably. The report assumes reader buy-in to its goals, to its focus on test scores, and to its assumption that “great teachers” have an “outsize impact” on students’ learning and lives. Grounded in these assumptions, the report highlights examples of “leading state work” in 37 policy areas related to teacher quality, aiming to hold up these state policies as exemplars for other state policymakers to replicate. Despite its intentions, the report has multiple flaws that undermine its validity and usefulness. It offers no explanation about how the 37 best practices were selected in the first place and no justification for its selection of “leading” policy work, some of which has occurred in states that have consistently been low performers on national assessments. In addition, the report offers no evidence to support its approach and makes no references to the nuanced and complex research literature in this area. The report focuses primarily on human capital policies that explicitly target the qualifications and evaluation of the teacher workforce. This ignores the growing consensus that many other factors matter in the production of students’ learning, including supports that help teachers succeed, school contexts and cultures, state and regional labor markets, teachers’ relationship-building capacities, and the social organization of teachers’ work. In the end, the report is of limited use.