World's Best Workforce

Overview: Equitable Access to Excellent Teachers

Understanding the Need.

The most important school-based factor in the success of a child is the effectiveness of the teacher they have in front of them every single day in the classroom. Every child, regardless of background, needs access to great teachers.

Equity commitment number eight – Value People – validates what MDE has heard clearly from Minnesota stakeholders: Focus on teachers and leaders; develop the people you have; and, ensure equitable access to the best teachers.

Unfortunately, disparities exist when it comes to access for low-income students, students of color, and American Indian students. In schools serving the most students in poverty, 15 percent of teachers are in their first three years of teaching; yet, our schools serving fewer students in poverty have just 9 percent of teachers considered inexperienced. Furthermore, higher poverty schools have nearly double the percentage of classes taught by teachers outside their licensure area as compared to the state’s low-poverty schools.

The World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) legislation, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and the Achievement and Integration program all include requirements, and in some cases funding, for districts to tackle the disparities in equitable access to excellent teachers that currently exist. The goal is to ensure every student has equitable access to experienced, in-field, and effective teachers that also represent Minnesota’s rich racial and ethnic diversity.

Creating a local teacher equity plan.

The step-by-step process below can be used as a guide to support districts in setting forth plans to increase equitable access at the local level. Districts are encouraged to use this process with local needs, context, and challenges in mind.

Step 1: Establish a Leadership Team. Who will be involved? How will we engage them meaningfully?

This can be the WBWF district advisory committee that can align the work to the broader WBWF planning efforts. It is important that the team include internal and external stakeholders, particularly families and communities that are reflective of the student population in the district.

Step 2: Assess Needs and Set Priorities. Where are we now? How did we get where we are? Where do we want to be?

A beginning step should include defining terms such as “effective”, “experienced”, and “in-field”. Next, teams should review data to identify, document, and report the gaps in equitable access for low-income students, students of color, and American Indian students to excellent teachers. Note the importance of reviewing data at a classroom level, including which students are assigned to which teachers. Some data that could be considered include:

  • Count and percent of students from low-income families that are taught by an experienced teacher compared to the count and percent of students from high-income families that are taught by an experienced teacher.
  • Count and percent of students from low-income families that are taught by an effective teacher compared to the count and percent of students from high-income families that are taught by an effective teacher.
  • Count and percent of students from low-income families that are taught by an in-field, licensed teacher compared to the count and percent of students from high-income families that are taught by an in-field, licensed teacher.
  • Distribution of teacher class assignments, comparing experience, effectiveness, and in-field licensure status for teachers assigned to remedial courses compared to teachers assigned to advanced courses.

The above data should also be considered for students of color and American Indian students compared to their White peers. This data review toolkit provides many options for data that can be used to inform equitable access work.

Using the gaps in equitable access that are identified in the data, teams should conduct a root-cause analysis to identify why these gaps exist.

Step 3: Select Strategies and Create a Plan. How are we going to get to where we want to be? How will we inform implementation?

After identifying root causes, teams should identify strategies that will impact the root cause(s) and reduce gaps in equitable teacher access. Depending on the needs and root causes identified, these could be strategies related to recruiting, attracting, assigning, developing, and retaining experienced, in-field, effective, and diverse teachers. Finally, the team should articulate a plan that includes short- and long-term milestones to implement the strategies and to monitor outcomes.

Step 4: Implement the Plan and Get Better. How’s it going, and what’s next?

Follow through and stick to the plan. Do what the plan says and collect evidence, study the results, and adjust implementation as lessons are learned. Changing systems and adult behavior to address teacher equity gaps take time. Success may not be evident immediately, but given time, the changes should impact student access to excellent teachers.

Step 5: Reassess Team, Needs and Strategies. How do we determine if we need to reassess our team, needs and strategies?

Context can change – there can be shifts in student enrollment, turnover of staff, a lack of impact on closing teacher equity gaps, or changes in policy or legislation. Local teams should regularly revisit their equitable access team, needs and strategies and make adjustments over time.

More on Step 3: Selecting strategies.

While the strategies that a local district or charter school selects is fully dependent on the needs, root causes and priorities that are determined in Step 2 above, Minnesota stakeholders have expressed interest in some key strategies outlined below.

Recruit, Attract, and Assign Teachers.

  • Re-examine the recruitment and selection policies to identify institutional barriers to hiring candidates of color and Native American candidates.
  • Seek opportunities to increase the teaching candidate pool, including but not limited to:
  • Grow Your Own initiatives.
  • Partnerships with preparation institutions.
  • Hiring incentives.
  • Expand residency programs and diverse teacher preparation programs that place candidates at high needs schools.
  • Examine district policies and procedures specific to staff assignments that reinforce or perpetuate equitable access gaps, including:
  • Ensuring students are not taught in consecutive years by an “ineffective” teacher.
  • Collective bargaining agreements.
  • Course assignment procedures.

Develop and Retain Teachers.

  • Strengthen new teacher induction and mentoring. For teachers of color or American Indian teachers, create avenues to mentor and support these educators who face unique challenges in the profession.
  • Study and improve the teaching and learning conditions in schools, including but not limited to:
  • Supporting effective school leadership.
  • Conducting staff surveys on teaching and learning conditions and action planning based on the data.
  • Align professional development opportunities to school and district priorities to support continuous improvement for educators. Ensure that professional development is selected to help teachers meet the needs of low-income students, American Indian students, and students of color.
  • Provide high-needs schools with additional support personnel including: literacy and content specialists, highly-effective mentor teachers, and restorative justice coordinators.
  • Continuously improve local teacher development and evaluation (TDE) systems and Q Comp systems, including ensuring that no student is taught in two consecutive years by a teacher on an improvement plan under the TDE system.
  • Engage teachers in teacher leadership opportunities to increase the retention of excellent educators and to support the growth of all teachers.