REL 2003 Policy Forum
Teacher Resources and Student Success

Sept 22-23, 2003
Oklahoma City, OK


A "Best Fit" Approach to Improving Teacher Resources

Dr. Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland

Dr. Rice's opening presentation provided an overview of teacher resources and student performance and the connection to state policy. She pointed out that teachers are the most critical resource we provide children and, at the same time, they are resource intensive and require inputs to make them successful. She touched upon teacher resource issues important to the region, such as salaries, certification, incentives, recruitment, retention, and class size. Dr. Rice described her "Best Fit Practice" model to improve teacher resources. This model combines evidence from research, an understanding of state and local contexts, and the reality that there are no magic bullets. The purpose of the model is to support decision makers by providing them information and allowing them to make the best choices based on their understanding of their own needs and resources.

Dr. Rice's three-part presentation focused on the following questions:

  1. Why focus so much attention on teacher resources? What investments can/should states make toward improving teacher resources and how should they distribute teacher resources to achieve equity, adequacy, and productivity goals?
  2. What does existing research say about teacher resources? What does the research tell us about teacher quality and qualifications, and, more specifically, what do we know about the impact of specific teacher characteristics on student performance? What is the role of context in understanding what works? What is still inconclusive from the research?
  3. What is the range of policy responses to improve teacher resources, which of these policy options have been shown to be effective, and what role does context play?
  4. How can policymakers make wise investments, especially weighing costs and effectiveness and working within budget shortfalls?
  5. How can policymakers make effective decisions using a "Best Fit Practice" model? This decision making framework includes three main steps:
    • Identify the problem using adequate data about state and local teacher resources
    • Understand available policy alternatives to address the problem and know how the alternatives complement or compete with each other or with policy contexts
    • Examine the cost effectiveness of the "package" of policies that might be implemented

For further details on this presentation, see the attached slide collection.

SEDL Research on Instructional Resources and Student Performance

Diane Pan and Dr. Zena H. Rudo, SEDL
Dr. Debra Hughes Jones, Rahel Kahlert, and Lotte Smith-Hansen, Dana Center

The panel discussed their on-going research on resource allocation that is based on two key findings from their recently completed study: 1) high-performing districts allocated more resources in instructional areas than low-performing districts and 2) successful districts used a wide range of resource allocation and decision making strategies and management structures to improve student performance. The SEDL policy team described their current research investigating how existing state data might inform policies regarding instructional resources in which they will examine three types of information: 1) state policy priorities regarding teacher resources, 2) student performance goals, and 3) contextual factors that moderate or mediate improvement efforts. This research is an illustration of the role of research in a "Best Fit Practice" model of decision making. For further details on this presentation, see the attached slide collection.

Teacher Resource Needs in the Region

Cross-state discussion groups

Participants met in cross-state groups to discuss issues, data, and research related to teacher resources. The small groups reported on their discussions which were guided by the questions below. Many commonalities across the states were noted.

  1. What are the critical issues facing your state with respect to teacher resources (e.g., recruitment, retention, distribution, quality of preparation, professional development, etc.)?
    • Recruitment and retention (losing teachers to other states)
    • Salaries (inter- and intra-state, regional and industry comparisons)
    • Diverse populations and different contexts (language and location needs)
    • Alternative certification and licensure (meeting the NCLB requirements)
    • Benefits and other incentives
    • Professional development (funding, requirements, focus, and effectiveness)
    • School/district consolidation
    • Implementing legislation and other legal issues
    • Teacher preparation and training (pedagogy to practice, quality of the teacher)
  2. How might a "Best Fit Practice" model of decision making help you address these key policy problems regarding teacher resources? What are the limitations of this model?
    • Politics play a key role
    • Decisions often based on "one size does not fit all" not necessarily "best fit"
    • Use of evidence-based instructional programs and at the same time a need for increased evaluation of programs (meeting the NCLB requirements)
    • Need for data collection
    • New systems for accountability and teacher compensation complicate decisions
    • Good leadership that understands, supports, and promotes practices (campus and district)
    • Data issues (alignment, data use, and collection timing)
    • Funding (availability, reallocation, and getting new funds)
    • Tiered teacher compensation systems
  3. What data are available to help you document the nature and extent of the problem? What additional data would you find helpful in identifying and tracking these issues? What information is necessary to help guide you to resolve allocation issues with respect to teachers?
    • Data limitations (particularly in area of professional development, class size)
    • Data accessibility (internal and external to the public)
    • Soft data in the area of finance
    • Data collaboration needed (between practice, finance, and performance; data alignment)
    • Data forgotten or not used, sometimes on purpose
    • Data needed to evaluate performance-based budgeting
    • More qualitative data would be helpful (learning about process and details of practices)
    • Cost-effectiveness analyses needed
    • State assistance needed to help districts use and understand their data
    • Much data is geared to district reporting, often based on requirements
    • District dialogues can be a useful tool to collect data

Instructional Resources: A National Perspective

Dr. Larry Picus

Dr. Picus provided an overview of school finance, teacher resources, and data issues, looking at the past and what is needed for the future. He encouraged long-term (10 year) strategic planning for schools, districts, and states regarding outcomes and allocations. He emphasized, "Our schools depend on long-term goals, not short-term reactions." He briefly discussed how education policies around equity, productivity, and adequacy have emerged. Dr. Picus also argued that having empirical data is good, but using it is what is important.

Dr. Serafin "Fin" Ramon, a SEDL board member and former dean of the School of Science, Mathematics, and Nursing at Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Oklahoma, provided short remarks following Dr. Picus's presentation. Dr. Ramon began by stating, "School finance is tough business." He acknowledged the need to plan ahead for good times as well as downturns, and encouraged states to progress in their use of data.

Strategies to Address Teacher Resources

Dr. Jennifer King Rice

State Education Interventions to Address Teacher Resource

Representative Calvin Johnson, Arkansas Education Committee Chair
Ms. Diane Burkhart, Louisiana State Senate Legislative Services
Dr. Pauline Rindone, New Mexico Legislative Education Study Committee Director
Ms. Linda Ruhman, Oklahoma State Department of Education
Dr. Celeste Alexander, Texas Research Consultant

Dr. Rice began the panel presentation by emphasizing that "investing in teachers equals investing in children." She discussed the second aspect of her "Best Fit Practice" model to improving teacher resources, focused on interventions and alternatives, particularly those that are research-based. She highlighted the need to look at the cost versus the effect of the alternative. For some alternatives, such as increasing teacher salaries or reducing class size, this type of analysis can more easily be done while with other alternatives, such as teacher quality, these analyses are more difficult. Dr. Rice clarified that although some alternatives are believed to be competing, they are, in fact, complementary, such as class size reduction and teacher quality.

Dr. Rice discussed a wide array of strategies used across the country to address issues of teacher recruitment and retention, including economic incentives; changes to teacher preparation programs; efforts to reduce barriers to enter the profession; and initiatives intended to make schools better places to work. She further explored how policy makers draw on different pools of resources to simultaneously address various dimensions of a problem (including expanding the pool of teacher candidates, recruiting teachers to the places they are needed the most, and retaining them in those positions over time). For further details on this presentation, see the attached slide collection.

A panel of experts from each state presented information on current teacher resource issues and policy alternatives. Panelists were asked to describe the efforts being made in their states to invest in teachers, particularly the major state challenges they face with respect to teacher resources. They were also asked to discuss the policy responses their states have adopted to address those challenges and the effectiveness of any of those policies.

Arkansas. An education adequacy study was recently completed as required by court order, including a tiered system for teacher compensation. A separate school facilities study has also been commissioned. A special legislative session on education reform is planned for December 2003. Two big concerns for Arkansas are teacher recruitment and retention, particularly in specific locations and for certain subject areas, and closing the achievement gap. Interventions proposed in legislation to improve the teaching environment include: 1) requiring districts to develop parent involvement plans and committees to oversee these plans, 2) increasing compensation for teachers with National Board Certification, 3) providing scholarships for students that want to enter teaching, 4) giving teachers 40 minutes of uninterrupted planning time a week, 5) allocating $500 per teacher for supplies, 6) limiting teacher extra duty time or compensating them for extra time, and 7) allowing teachers two 15 minute breaks per day. For further details on Arkansas' adequacy study, see the attached file or go to

Louisiana. Major concerns for the state are teacher shortages, salaries, and quality. A recruitment issue is the environment within and around the school. Louisiana also struggles with in-state inequities around per-pupil expenditures and teacher salaries, often with teacher unions actively involved. Several state commissions, one on school finance and another on teacher quality, have made recommendations. As a result, initiatives regarding teacher quality have been, or are in the process of being, implemented. These include: 1) a new certification structure, 2) all teacher preparation coursework in the state being aligned with state education K-12 standards, 3) an accountability system for higher education, and 4) teacher signing bonuses. For further details on Louisiana's teacher quality initiatives, go to Louisiana educators recently completed a survey about teacher resources and reconfirmed the state's concerns. For further details of the results of this survey, see the attached file or contact Dr. Shana Corvers at (225) 342-7185.

New Mexico. The new political administration sponsored a public school reform bill that has prompted numerous changes in education. A three-tiered licensure structure was recently approved that will raise teacher salaries across the board over the next five years and includes mentoring for beginning teachers. New state accountability requirements have been implemented and performance-based budgeting has been piloted in some districts but has not yet been fully assessed. Several constitutional amendments are currently proposed regarding the use of more state permanent funds for teachers and implementing a new education governance structure. (At the time of this writing, both amendments have been approved.) Additional teacher resource initiatives in New Mexico include a "return to work" policy for retired teachers and incentives for National Board Certification. For further details regarding New Mexico's three-tiered licensure structure, see the attached attached slide collection.

Oklahoma. In 1980, Oklahoma passed a teacher reform bill that increased requirements for teacher candidates, implemented mentoring for teachers, and emphasized professional development. For the first time this year, decreased funding for many of the initiatives in that bill, including for the regional service centers, are of great concern. To be certified, teachers are required to take three licensing tests. Currently, Oklahoma has a good supply of certified teachers, especially those with National Board Certification who receive a $5,000 incentive. Alternative certification is growing and these teachers are found to stay in the system. Scholarships are provided for teachers as is university training once they are in the field. All local school board members are required to attend training in such areas as finance, ethics, and member duties.

Texas. Currently Texas's school funding foundation program is being challenged in the courts. As a result, the state has embarked on an adequacy study and the legislature will be meeting in special sessions in early 2004 to try to find solutions to the state's school finance problems. As a reduction in class size has been implemented across Texas, teacher demand has increased and shortages have become more prominent. Additionally, teacher attrition is an issue with which Texas is struggling, especially among those with alternative certification. Texas is taking the initiative to study many of its school finance and teacher resource issues in order to make better empirically-based decisions. This will be especially important in the area of teacher certification as none of the certification legislation proposed in the most recent session got passed. For further details regarding this presentation, see the attached file.

What Can States Do About Teacher Resources?

State discussion groups

Participants met in state groups to discuss what can and should be done about maintaining, improving, and supporting teacher resources. Discussions in the small groups were guided by the questions below. Key topic areas discussed included: weighing different intervention strategies for teacher resources, state information needs, and ways that research and data can focus on the issues that are raised.

  1. What are the most promising policy interventions for improving teacher resources in your state? What are the pros and cons of the interventions (including barriers and challenges, evidence of how they work)?
  2. What is needed to improve the state's package of interventions aimed at improving teacher resources?

How Much Does It Cost?

Dr. Jennifer King Rice and Dr. Larry Picus

This last presentation connected all of the sessions of the forum to discuss costs for teacher resource policy implementation, especially in this time of budget constraints and considering the role context plays. Dr. Rice emphasized the need for cost-effectiveness analyses of possible strategies and the evaluation of any strategies implemented. Dr. Rice noted that states can estimate costs and effectiveness but should be aware that true costs might actually be higher than estimates after time, facility, and material costs are considered. She stressed that targeting policies to high need schools will inevitably lower costs and may increase effectiveness. For further details regarding Dr. Rice's presentation, see the attached slide collection. Both Dr. Rice and Dr. Picus encouraged the use of good data to inform policy decisions. Dr. Picus described some of the recommendations outlined in the Arkansas adequacy study to provide one example of what adequate teacher resources might cost. For further details regarding the Arkansas adequacy study Dr. Picus discussed, go to

Click here for the policy forum summary in MS Word format.