State educator equity plan earns federal approval, praise
Delaware’s plan to improve equitable access to excellent educators for every child received approval from the U.S. Department of Education, federal officials announced today.
The First State’s plan was shaped by six months of public engagement and input from more than 200 parents, educators and other community members. Delaware's stakeholders collectively developed seven strategies for greater focus over the next decade: improving school leadership and retaining the best leaders; strengthening educator preparation programs; enhancing educator recruitment and selection; improving induction and mentoring programs; enhancing professional learning; rethinking compensation and career pathways; and considering school climate and working conditions (through the ongoing administration of the TELL Delaware survey).
“The trends in the data are clear: Low-income and minority students in Delaware are more likely to go to schools with less experienced educators and more likely to have turnover among their teachers,” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said. “This plan is about ensuring any student in any classroom in any public school in Delaware has the same opportunity as any other student to be taught by a great educator who is supported by a great leader.”
The U.S. Department of Education asked each state educational agency to submit a new state educator equity plan in accordance with the requirements of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). As required by ESEA in its plan, each state had to, among other things, describe the steps it would take to ensure that “poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers.” Each state needed to analyze what its stakeholders and data had to say about the root causes of inequities and craft its own solutions.
Delaware data show clear educator equity gaps:
The state’s high-need schools have significantly higher teacher turnover rates than schools not designated as high-need. Teachers are also much more likely to transfer from high-need schools to non-high-need schools than to transfer in the opposite direction.
- Turnover rates in Delaware schools with the highest proportion of minority students were close to 20 percent compared to 11 percent in the Delaware schools with the lowest proportion of minority students.
- 39 percent of Delaware teachers that left high-need schools transferred to a non-high need school; 5 percent of teachers that left a non-high need school in Delaware transferred to a high-need school.
Early career teachers are more likely to teach in schools with high proportions of low-income and minority students.
- 14 percent of teachers in Delaware's highest poverty schools (top quartile) are early career teachers compared with 10 percent in schools with the lowest proportion of low-income students (bottom quartile).
Low-income and minority children also were less likely to be taught by teachers who received the highest ratings for student growth on their educator evaluations.
- A quarter of math/English teachers in the highest-poverty schools earned the highest rating, "exceeds," based on their students' growth on state tests. But in the most affluent schools, almost 40 percent of math/English teachers earned "exceeds" ratings based on their students' growth on the same tests.
- These ratings are based on growth only, which takes into account the proficiency level at which students started. However, additional analyses also found promising counter-examples to this trend with several high-poverty schools having the majority of teachers earning "exceeds" ratings based on their students' growth on state tests, demonstrating that teachers and students can and do thrive in such schools.
Delaware’s Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators for All Students outlines a course for 2015-2025 by detailing the state’s equity gaps, stakeholder engagement, root cause analysis, potential strategies and solutions, plan for ongoing monitoring of strategies and results, and plan for reporting progress to stakeholders and the public. Delaware's stakeholder engagement efforts were heralded by USED.
The department now will work on the state initiatives outlined in the plan and provide support to districts and charter schools in their next steps addressing the key areas of the plan, ranging from leadership development programs and examination of mentoring programs to improved recruitment efforts.
"This plan will allow us to better analyze the root causes of why instructional inequities may exist around our state. Additionally, it should encourage all stakeholders to have the tough conversations needed regarding these existing inequities and lay out a plan to address them,” said Dr. Dusty Blakey, superintendent of the Colonial School District and a member of the Educator Equity Working Group. This group, comprised of participants from earlier stakeholder engagement sessions, met to review the final plan prior to submission and will continue to meet quarterly to shepherd implementation.
“It’s all about providing every student across Delaware with access to outstanding teachers without regard to where you live,” Blakey said.
The data presented in Delaware's Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators for All Students (Educator Equity Plan) builds on almost a decade of dedicated efforts to improve data quality as it pertains to educator effectiveness in Delaware. In 2006, the department submitted an educator equity plan to USED that detailed the steps that the state would take to ensure that students were instructed by a "highly-qualified" teacher (HQT). At that time, roughly one quarter of Delaware schools and more than a third of classes were instructed by teachers who did not meet the federal definition of HQT. Today, the vast majority of educators in core academic subjects meet that definition. Via Race to the Top (RTTT), an updated statewide plan for building a more complex understanding of the state’s educator effectiveness landscape was charted in 2009-2010 (see Section D of Delaware's RTTT Plan).
In 2012, the department partnered with Harvard University's Strategic Data Project to increase the state's analytic understanding and capacity relating to issues of educator effectiveness. This three-year partnership has allowed Delaware to conduct sophisticated analyses relating to equitable access (educator equity). In April 2013, the state released the Educator Effectiveness Diagnostic after more than a year of data analysis. The diagnostic, which covered topics ranging from educator experience to retention to performance, provided the foundation for the educator equity gap data presented in Delaware’s Educator Equity Plan.