A national study ranking teachers has given Montana a failing grade. This marks the second time in a row Montana gets an ‘F’ in the study by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The state’s top school officials disagree with how the council compiles the study.
The National Council on Teacher Quality releases their State Teacher Policy Yearbook every two years. Montana is the only state to receive an ‘F’ for the last two reports, putting the state 47th nationwide. Council Vice President Sandi Jacobs wanted to clarify this does not reflect judgment on individual Montana teachers.
“This is a policy review, looking at the state laws and rules and regulations that govern the teaching profession,” Jacobs said.
The report looks at a lot of criteria and much of it has to do with how the state assesses teachers. It says Montana teachers are not required to pass a test of academic proficiency, that there is no policy regarding teacher evaluations, and the state does not support giving raises based on teacher performance.
Jacobs said the council does their own research and then sends that to the state for verification. The council then gives the state the chance to respond and offer their own points of view. Jacobs said Montana education officials said ‘no’ to all of that.
“Montana is the only state that declined to participate with us in that this year which was a real disappointment to us,” Jacobs said.
Deputy Superintendent in the Montana Office of Public Instruction Dennis Parman said the office does not take the report very seriously.
“We really take issue with their criteria where they’re really all about policy and not about outcomes,” he said.
Parman said Montana’s teacher policies are certified by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, saying assessments happen when starting teachers get licensed. He said his office prefers to focus on student success rather than ranking teachers.
Parman pointed out U.S. Department of Education statistics put Montana students higher than the national average when tested on most core subjects.
“We perennially score, rank in the top ten if not higher. We look at the most recent results in science and in 4th grade science…only one state ranked higher than our 4th graders and our 8th graders ranked number 1 in the country,” he said.
He said scores like that don’t happen without strong teachers. But Jacobs said our national student test scores do not put us where we want to be globally.
“In international comparisons, The United States is at best holding at the middle of the pack and in many examples falling behind,” she said. “So saying we’re among the highest performing states doesn’t necessarily say that everything’s fine.”
Jacobs said rigorous and regular examination of our teachers is a piece of the solution to improving our education across the country.
Office of Public Instruction Deputy Superintendent Dennis Parman said the office is always looking for new ideas.
“We’re working very closely on developing programs that ensure quality,” he said. “We’re not sitting back and look at our results and our results are great so there’s no room for improvement. We know that we need to move the needle.”
He said Montana needs to do that to respond to the educational needs of an ever-changing world.