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Designing Systems to Support Quality Teaching

**Natale, C., Gaddis, L., Bassett, K., & McKnight, K. (2013). Creating sustainable teacher career pathways: A 21st century imperative. Arlington, VA: National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) and New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc. Available at Final%20updated%20Research%20Report.pdf

This report excerpt situates the challenges of the professionalization of teachers in the 21st century. Highlighting the teacher retention crisis as a key issue, the authors argue that the United States must adopt new strategies that provide incentives and expanded career pathways—in ways similar to those of the international community and other competitive licensed professions—in order to attract and retain top talent in the teaching profession. They also make suggestions for raising the standards for entrance into teaching as a means to begin effective human capital management of the teaching force. Ultimately, the report emphasizes that successful systems recognize the need and value of cultivating teachers’ competence and expertise throughout all stages of the human capital management cycle, from deepening the talent pool to implementing successful work cultures.

Doyle, D. (2015). Leadership and lattices: New pathways across the teaching profession. Washington, DC: Center on Great Teachers and Leaders. Available at 1580%20GTL%20Ask%20the%20Team_Leadership%20Lattices%20d2%20lvr.pdf

This brief describes the characteristics of strong teacher leadership pathways for states and districts to consider when developing and implementing their own systems. First, the author suggests that offering diverse career pathways is critical to encouraging teachers with different skill sets to become leaders. Additionally, districts must sustainably fund teacher leader positions; research demonstrates that teacher leader programs that are built into the school or district budget typically live longer than programs that are externally or temporarily funded. Last, teacher leaders, especially strong instructional leaders, should have the opportunity to continue working in the classroom. The brief also provides spotlights on several teacher leader programs throughout the country, including programs led by Denver Public Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and nonprofits like Leading Educators and Teach Plus.

**Humphrey, D., Koppich, J., & Tiffany-Morales, J. (2016). Replacing teacher evaluation systems with systems of professional growth: Lessons from three California school districts and their teachers’ unions. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Available at teachereval_report.pdf_2_1.pdf

This report documents the teacher evaluation work of three California school districts: San Juan, Poway, and San Jose Unified School Districts. All three school districts have shifted from outdated teacher evaluation systems to professional growth systems that strengthen collaborative opportunities among administrators, educators and teachers’ unions. The report summarizes the central components of each school district’s development and implementation strategies; in San Jose, these include revamping their Teacher Evaluation System and differentiating the appraisal process to address varying teacher performance and status levels. The report then highlights lessons learned for state policy makers and districts leaders. For example, despite each district’s experience demonstrating that this process has no quick fix, all point to the benefit of allowing local districts and unions to tackle the complexities of teacher improvement through new evaluation systems.

Fensterwald, J. (2013, May 23). San Jose teachers, board adopt landmark teacher evaluation system [Web log]. Available at

San Jose Unified School District. (2015). Agreement between San Jose Unified School District and San Jose Teachers Association: 2013-2016. Available at downloads/2013-2016-SJTA-CBA.pdf

These two pieces define the “model” and “master” teacher roles created through the most recent collective bargaining agreement between San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) and San Jose Teachers Association. An excerpt from an EdSource article about the contract provides a brief overview of the roles—which SJUSD has not yet implemented. Following this overview is the actual contract language in which the district and union define the new roles. Both positions are three-year terms and give teachers a stipend for their time and additional responsibilities, which may include coaching, curriculum design, and other district projects.

Knudson, J. (2013). You’ll never be better than your teachers: The Garden Grove approach to human capital development. San Mateo, CA: California Collaborative on District Reform. Available at

Teachers matter. Educators, policymakers, and the general public alike agree that great teachers are vital to a thriving K-12 education system, yet the pathways to assembling a high quality teaching force remain elusive. This case study of Garden Grove Unified School District demonstrates what a comprehensive approach to maximizing teacher quality can look like in practice. The report examines the strategies behind the district’s two key levers for improvement: (1) getting the best teachers and (2) building the capacity of the teachers it has. The story of Garden Grove is less about what it does, however, than how the district approaches its work. The report therefore explores the district culture and commitment to continuous improvement that produces effective practices of human capital development and enables these practices to achieve success.

Collins, J. (2005).  Issue three: First who—getting the right people on the bus, within social sector constraints. In Good to great and the social sectors (pp. 13-17). San Francisco: Elements Design Group. Available for purchase at

In this short excerpt, Jim Collins argues that one of the central tenets of the good-to-great approach—making sure that you have the right people on the bus and in the right seats—may be especially relevant in social sectors like education, but that its application may need to respond to challenges (e.g., tenure) that are absent or less common in the world of business. He contrasts his emphasis on selectivity and placement with a less successful approach that relies on external incentives to spur motivation. Collins also argues that positive change in culture and productivity can come from the middle of the organization—for example, from teacher leaders.

**This document is considered a priority reading.