Getting to Excellence: A Legislator's Guide to Educator Effectiveness Policies


Red pencil with grade signDuring the past 20 years, research has confirmed the effects of teach­ing on student achievement. A teacher’s effectiveness is the single most important school-related factor associated with a student’s success. We now know that a student who has an effective teacher benefits significantly, and that a student who is taught by a series of ineffective teachers is unlikely to recover academically. A growing body of evidence also confirms the importance of effective school principals to student success as second only to that of teachers. While out-of-school factors continue to predominantly influence student achievement, of those factors within a school, the effectiveness of a teacher and the principal are the most significant. As a result, state legislators often seek the most effective policies to improve teaching and school leadership and, ultimately, student achievement.

In 2011, the National Conference of State Legislature’s (NCSL) Foundation for State Legislatures sponsored the NCSL Partnership on Educator Effectiveness.  This partnership brought together industry experts who are members of NCSL’s Foundation for State Legislatures and legislators and legislative staff with expertise on this issue. Their joint dialogue sought to further study policy options for state legislatures as they continue to support and improve educator effectiveness. NCSL recognizes this to be one of the more important and pressing issues facing the nation in the struggle to improve student achievement and build a 21st century workforce.

The guide includes chapters on preparing effective educators, licensing, recruiting and retaining, induction and mentoring, ongoing professional learning, evaluating and using data to improve educator effectiveness.

NCSL’s Educator Effectiveness Partnership created this publication as a guide for state legislators as they consider policies that support educators and improve the quality of teaching. It provides an overview of the major areas of educator policy, lists questions state legislators might ask as they consider their own policy context, and offers policy options states are considering. The information presented in this publication was gleaned from Partnership meetings during the past year with education policy experts and from the partners’ own expertise and experience.  The Partnership met throughout 2011 to hear from researchers and experts on the issue, and shared their own expertise to determine the most effective and ef­ficient policies. The work culminated in this guide.


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