8 Districts Named 'Great' for Teachers

What does it take to be considered a "great district" by the teachers who work there? "Substantial" salaries help, as does ample professional development and coaching that are tailored to the individual educators and include ample team planning time. So does the opportunity for teachers to move into leadership roles. Also important: efficient operations and evidence of decision-making that reflects school interest, not district mandated. District support is also vital, especially in helping teachers meet the needs of their students.

Those are the qualities cited by the teacher who helped identify the nation's top eight "great districts for great teachers" in a new competition organized by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The winners were chosen from among a pool of 123 school districts nominated.

The winners this year are:

Two of the districts — DC and Gwinnett — were designated as "outstanding great districts" for the ways in which they exceeded NCTQ's benchmarks and for demonstrating "exceptional achievement."

NCTQ announced the winners earlier this month at the SXSWedu conference in Austin. This is the first year the organization has identified districts worth highlighting.

The criteria by which the districts were assessed was developed from input of "great teachers" in focus groups and surveys. NCTQ said it spent 18 months evaluating data from teacher contracts and other documents. The organization also considered what education research has concluded about best practices and used its own experience in analyzing district human capital policies and practices.

Gwinnett County, as an example, pays teachers $41,849 as a starting salary. Teachers within the district cite access to resources, quality professional development and a strong administration and colleagues as noteworthy.

"We are proud to have been named a Great District for Great Teachers winner and that our work to recruit, reward, and recognize our teachers is getting noticed," said CEO/Superintendent, J. Alvin Wilbanks, in a prepared statement. "This national recognition is a testament to the hard work our teachers do every day and our district's work to support and develop educators."

"Pinellas County Schools pays a starting salary of $41,155 and excels in how it supports beginning teachers as well as all teachers in their planning and personal development.

Superintendent Michael Grego said the school district's successes, including academic achievements of students, "are possible because of dedicated teachers. We strive to make educators feel supported from the moment they are hired until they retire."

NCTQ also named four "honorable mention" districts:

"We first conceived the Great Districts for Great Teachers initiative over a year ago as a way to celebrate the good work on the part of so many school districts," said Kate Walsh, President of NCTQ. "We hope these winners will inspire other districts in their own transformations so that sometime soon, all districts will be great districts where great people want to work."

The work was supported by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Heinz Endowments and the Walton Family Foundation.

Profiles of the winning districts and an assessment function for districts to evaluate their own standing against the criteria are available on a Great Districts website here.

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