NCTQ started by reviewing policies in 123 school districts representing the 100 largest school districts in the country, the largest district in each state, and at least one district from the 25 largest metropolitan areas. We then analyzed the districts in this starting sample to identify districts with the conditions to be a good place for great teachers. Using the NCTQ Teacher Contract Database as a starting point, we analyzed key policy documents such as collective bargaining agreements, evaluation handbooks, and salary schedules. Fewer than half of the starting sample became qualifying districts.
We then asked qualifying districts for further information and documentation on their policies and practices relevant to great teachers. We scored districts on over 100 questions per district, culminating in the review of more than 6,000 data points in total to determine the finalist districts.
In each of the finalist districts, NCTQ conducted a listening tour to better understand the context and strengths of each district. We talked with teachers through focus groups and surveys to learn about their day-to-day experiences and hear their opinions about working in the district. We also interviewed key district leadership, including superintendents and chief human resource officers to understand how policies are implemented. Based on this information, we named all finalists as either a Great District for Great Teachers or an honorable mention.
Click here for a visual representation of the process.
Criteria development and weighting
NCTQ developed its criteria for what makes a district great through extensive research to determine what matters most to great teachers. We conducted focus groups and surveys of great teachers to ensure that we were examining all aspects of what matters to great teachers, not just those aspects that have been heavily studied.
We also identified what current research suggests is most important for attracting, retaining, and supporting quality teachers. In addition to considering the basics of salary and benefits, we have worked to outline the less tangible elements of a teacher's work environment that affect his or her ability to be effective.
Putting together what we heard from teachers with current research, we arrived at five key focus areas for analysis, each with many indicators showing what makes a district great. Visit the criteria page to learn more about the research behind Great Districts for Great Teachers.
Each criterion was weighted to reflect:
- The importance to great teachers, as determined by focus groups, an online survey of great teachers, and results from a literature review of previous research and teacher surveys;
- The importance to student learning and teacher quality, according to the practices research says supports the best outcomes for students; and
- The quality of the data, including how well the metric aligned with the criteria it was used to assess.
Checking for bias
At each stage in the Great Districts process, NCTQ carefully checked our outcomes for bias. We designed our indicators in ways that avoided giving an advantage to districts educating more affluent children. We checked for correlations between our outcomes and various district characteristics such as size, wealth, and the district's state, and found no clear patterns.
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