Putting the Best-Fit Model to Use
Too often decisions about teacher resources are made quickly, maybe in response to legislation, state or local requirements, or immediate need. Following the comprehensive steps suggested in the best-fit model may seem daunting or too time consuming, but this does not have to be the case. One thing is for certain, developing effective policies to enhance teacher quality takes a systematic and systemic model which the best-fit approach provides.
All five SEDL states continue to devote money, time, and personnel to dealing with the problem, or at least some aspect such as teacher compensation, certification, recruitment, retention, and professional development. Arkansas hired consultants to conduct an education adequacy study with a teacher compensation component. Teacher salary increases and a "Knowledge and Skill Based Pay" salary schedule were recommended. In Louisiana, two pieces of legislation were passed, one to provide incentive pay to certified teachers to teach in disadvantaged geographic areas and another for reemployment incentives for retired teachers so they can return at full salary and benefit levels one year after retiring. Last year, New Mexico implemented a three-tiered teacher advancement system linking licensure level, teaching experience and competence, and salary. Oklahoma established a four-staged teacher salary increase plan based on teacher experience and degree to take effect in the 2005-2006 school year. And in Texas,alternative certification to teach classes in grades 8-12 was made easier with a new ruling effective this year. Are these efforts a best-fit for the problems each state is facing? How did the states decide on these new initiatives? Will teacher quality improve? Can we afford these policies? Answers to these questions are important to future decision making.
Research-based information; federal, state, and local data; national and local experts in the field (especially school personnel); and technical assistance providers are available to help find answers to guide effective teacher policy. Rice sums up what policymakers must do:
Education policymakers and administrators would be well served by recognizing the complexity of the issue and adopting multiple measures along many dimensions to support existing teachers and to attract and hire new, highly qualified teachers. The research suggests that investing in teachers can make a difference in student achievement. In order to implement needed policies associated with staffing every classroom—even the most challenging ones—with high-quality teachers, substantial and targeted investments must first be made in both teacher quality and education research (p. vii).