COVID-19 prompted state education agencies (SEAs) to make short-term changes to educator talent management policies, practices, and systems. Below we suggest areas where states might want to take a second look before reverting to past practices.
Emphasize quality in educator preparation requirements. Some states, like Alabama and Iowa, waived time requirements related to on-site clinical experiences (Deans for Impact, 2020). Others, like California and Kansas, kept their existing time requirements but offered new flexibilities such as virtual teaching and observations (Deans for Impact, 2020). Moving forward, states have an opportunity to shift the focus from time requirements to clear guidance on the quality and depth of clinical experiences, both remote and in-person.
Re-evaluate certification requirements based on lessons learned from disruptions due to COVID-19. The debate about the utility of certification tests and requirements persists. However, the pandemic presents an important research opportunity since many states, including Alabama and Mississippi, suspended or changed state policies, which may impact certification patterns (Deans for Impact, 2020). For example, more than 25% of the nearly 7,000 emergency licenses granted in Massachusetts during the pandemic were for persons of color, a much higher percentage than the current teacher population (Jung, 2021). Given the research on the importance of diverse racial representation in the classroom, short-term results like those seen in Massachusetts may lead to long-term policy changes.
Studying recent cohorts of educators can help states decide whether to revert to previous policies or chart a new course. Research questions can focus on whether more candidates—and a greater diversity of candidates in terms of race, ethnicity, age, and background—entered the profession in states that suspended certification tests. Questions can also look at if those candidates were successful and if they persisted in the profession. It is also worth considering whether some requirements, such as certification testing, should permanently shift from initial certification requirements to full certification or tenure requirements.
Consider the SEA’s role in educator recruitment. State education agencies may have previously seen recruitment as a district responsibility. However, since the pandemic, SEAs like Tennessee and Rhode Island have adopted new initiatives to help match potential teachers, teacher assistants, and substitute teachers to districts. As of March 17, 2021, the Tennessee Department of Education connected over 2,000 educators from 42 states and seven countries with Tennessee school districts through the TN Teacher Jobs Connection (Tennessee Department of Education, 2021). The Teacher Jobs Connection collects information from potential educators and then sends that information weekly to districts and schools through the Tennessee Association of School Personnel Administrators Listserv (Tennessee Department of Education, 2021). Depending on the success of these and similar efforts, SEAs may seek to continue or expand their roles as central communicators and connectors, particularly if these efforts recruit a diverse group of educators.
Revise induction and mentoring requirements or programs based on teacher needs. Incoming teachers have likely had unique preparation experiences during the pandemic, including limited or no student teaching experience. Now more than ever, providing new hires with high-quality mentoring and induction supports is critical. States have an opportunity to re-evaluate and make changes to current requirements and state supports around teacher induction to better meet the needs of today’s new teachers. For instance, SEAs might consider collecting data on gaps in teacher knowledge and offer resources and professional learning in areas that incoming teachers may lack statewide.
So, where do SEAs go from here? Transparent, data-based, and research-informed decision-making is vital. SEAs can reach out to local and regional research partners, such as Regional Education Labs, for support with developing research questions and conducting rapid research studies. Once completed, SEAs can be transparent about findings and study limitations. Using protocols and discussing equity-focused prompts (such as these from Pittsburgh Public Schools or these from USC Rossier) can foster conversations that help unpack who would benefit and who may be negatively affected by any resulting policy proposals.
Lead Author: Lauren Matlach, Region 7 Comprehensive Center
Special thanks to R7CC team members, Lauren Jetty, Ph.D., Lori Vandeborne, Jack Schwarz, and R7CC Publishing Editor, Kimilee Norman-Goins, for their support and feedback.
American Institutes for Research. (n.d.). Evidence-based practices to support equity: A snapshot on mentoring and induction. https://gtlcenter.org/sites/default/files/EvidenceBasedPractices_MentoringInduction.pdf
Center for Urban Education. (2017). Protocol for assessing equity-mindedness in state policy. https://cue.usc.edu/files/2017/02/CUE-Protocol-Workbook-Final_Web.pdf#page=31.
Deans for Impact. (2020). COVID-19 teacher preparation policy database. Google Sheets. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1SnNKv38kfGHgEIWlz-VWZ4ejo9MTSmXoMLPrSp5AFu8/edit#gid=1485679140.
Gerhenson, S., Hanson, M., and Lindsay, C. (2021). Teacher diversity and student success: Why racial representation matters in classrooms. Harvard Education Press. https://compcenternetwork.org/ccn-products/multimedia/educator-workforce-media-package.
Highlander Institute. (2021). Courses. Highlander Institute Courses. https://courses.highlanderinstitute.org/.
Jung, C. (2021, March 25). An accidental experiment: An emergency teacher license gives an unexpected boost to teacher diversity. Edify. https://www.wbur.org/edify/2021/03/25/emergency-teaching-licenses-diversity.
Pittsburgh Public Schools. (n.d.). Equity-focused decision-making. https://f.hubspotusercontent20.net/hubfs/.
Thurmond, T., Sloan, T., & Hammond, L. D. (2020, October). Strategies to strengthen EPP and LEA partnerships during COVID-19. Commission on Teacher Credentialing. https://www.ctc.ca.gov/docs/default-source/commission.
TN Department of Education. (2021, March). Over 2,000 educators connected to school districts through TN Teacher Jobs Connection. Tennessee State Government – TN.gov. https://www.tn.gov/education/news/2021/3/17/over-2-000-educators-connected-to-school-districts-through-tn-teacher-jobs-connection.html.