A new report by the not-for-profit, non-partisan National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) finds that Connecticut's teacher policies largely work against the nation's goal of improving teacher quality. While the national focus on teacher quality has never been greater, the broad range of state laws, rules and regulations that govern the teaching profession too often impede rather than promote serious reform.
NCTQ's 2009 State Teacher Policy Yearbook examined state policy across five areas that include teacher preparation, evaluation, tenure and dismissal, alternative certification and compensation. Connecticut earned the following grades, resulting in an overall grade of D+:
• Delivering Well Prepared Teachers: C
• Expanding the Teaching Pool: B-
• Identifying Effective New Teachers: D+
• Retaining Effective New Teachers: F
• Exiting Ineffective New Teachers: C-
NCTQ President Kate Walsh said, "The release of the 2009 Yearbook comes at a particularly opportune time. Race to the Top, the $4.5 billion federal discretionary grant competition, has put unprecedented focus on education reform in general, and teacher quality in particular. We believe that the Yearbook provides a road map for achieving a Race to the Top grant, identifying where states are on the right track and where they have considerable work to do.
Walsh continued: “Unfortunately, states have tremendous ground to make up after years of policy neglect. There is much more Connecticut can do to ensure that all children have the effective teachers they deserve."
Among the findings about Connecticut:
• Connecticut requires annual evaluations of all teachers and includes some objective evidence of student learning in these evaluations. However, the state does not make such evidence the preponderant criterion in evaluations, meaning that a teacher may earn a satisfactory rating even if found ineffective in the classroom. Further, Connecticut does not require that districts collect or consider any evidence of teacher effectiveness as part of tenure decisions.
• Connecticut makes it too difficult for districts to attempt to dismiss poor performers by failing to articulate a policy for dismissing teachers for poor performance separate from dismissal policies for criminal and morality violations. Connecticut also allows multiple appeals of dismissals.
• Connecticut's requirements for the preparation of elementary teachers do not ensure these teachers are well prepared to teach mathematics.
• Connecticut sets low expectations for what special education teachers should know, despite state and federal expectations that special education students should meet the same high standards as other students.
• Connecticut fails to hold its teacher preparation programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.
• Connecticut's pay and benefit policies for teachers—including the state-run retirement system—offer inadequate incentives to stay in teaching. The financial sustainability of Connecticut's retirement system is also uncertain, based on the state's own report.
Despite these findings, Connecticut has some bright spots, including its preparation of elementary teachers in the science of reading and its content preparation of middle school teachers. The state also offers a more streamlined and flexible alternate route to certification than most states.