The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reflects a new approach to educator effectiveness that holds significant promise for states and districts to take bold action to address this important priority.
Research clearly shows that the effectiveness of the classroom teacher is the most impactful school-based factor in student achievement. The challenge has been how states and districts can increase the effectiveness of classroom teaching, particularly in high-need schools which typically have higher numbers of inexperienced and out-of-field teachers.
An important step in the ESSA is to encourage states to consider teacher effectiveness by looking at the output of teaching: classroom practice and student learning. The law delegates to states and districts authority for defining effectiveness and provides a number of new approaches to professional development to increase instructional effectiveness.
Through the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program (formerly called the Teacher Incentive Fund), the ESSA provides federal funds to support state and district innovation to improve classroom instruction and student learning. This program supports new evaluation systems based on multiple measures including student learning, teacher leadership roles and responsibilities, school-based professional support aligned to evaluation results, and opportunities for performance-based compensation. Changes to Title II also encourage districts to focus on educator effectiveness solutions, as does a new STEM Master Teacher initiative included in the law.
Over the last decade, schools, districts and states have created powerful systems of instructional support with TIF resources, yielding significant and measurable student achievement results that have been sustained over time. While these reforms are complex and each district is unique, there are common structures and approaches that have been proven by educators using TIF funds to raise teacher effectiveness and student learning growth. Schools using the TAP System, for example, have demonstrated increased teacher effectiveness and retention, along with student learning growth, compared to similar schools.
ESSA also includes the Supporting Effective Educator Development, or SEED, grants. These funds support innovative change in the way new teachers are developed, and are available to both traditional and alternative teacher preparation programs that propose research-based approaches to teacher preparation that include creating stronger connections between districts and teacher preparation programs, and providing teacher candidates with more detailed feedback and support on their classroom practice.
We are pleased that the experiences and lessons learned by educators implementing TIF and SEED grants are reflected in the new Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program, the SEED program, and in the educator effectiveness solutions outlined in the new Title II of ESSA.