The following is a list of recent resources for those focused on the professional improvement of teachers, principals, and other educational leaders.

State approves new teacher education programs to fight shortage In an effort to combat Virginia’s teacher shortage, 15 Virginia colleges and universities will start new four-year teacher education degree programs this fall. The Virginia Board of Education approved the programs last week. The State Council for Higher Education of Virginia, which oversees public colleges and universities, approved the new programs at public institutions in May. The College of William and Mary, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia State, George Mason, James Madison, Old Dominion, and Virginia Commonwealth universities are projected to produce 400 more teachers through 26 new bachelor degree programs. Ferrum, Randolph, Roanoke, and Sweet Briar colleges; Liberty, Marymount, and Shenandoah universities, as well as the University of Lynchburg, will roll out 27 additional programs.

During Illinois teacher shortage, Decatur and other districts turn to long-term substitutes Jorden Bell describes the Rev. Wayne Dunning as the best teacher he’s ever had. Alexandria Rice said he’s patient and doesn’t raise his voice. “He really cares about us,” she said. Both were in Dunning’s class last year at the French Academy, where the other students agreed with their positive reviews of his performance. Yet while he just wrapped up a full school year of teaching, Dunning isn’t a certified teacher — he’s a long-term substitute. “No sick days, no sub for the substitute, all day every day for the school year,” Dunning said. “I have enjoyed the experience.” A teacher shortage, both in Decatur and across the state, means that more people like Dunning are leading classrooms for months or even entire school years as substitute teachers. In Illinois, substitute teachers are licensed by the state and must have a bachelor’s degree, though it does not have to be in an education-related field.

Effective School Leaders Learn How to Solve Problems When Al Taylor became principal of Berkmar High School in 2013, one in three freshmen at the school in Lilburn, Georgia, about 35 miles from Atlanta, was being held back. Taylor knew the research about ninth grade. Studies out of the University of Chicago have shown that performance in ninth grade is more predictive of a student’s odds of graduating than all other factors, including race and socioeconomic status, combined. If Taylor hoped to move the needle on Berkmar’s graduation rate—then 55 percent—the work needed to start in ninth grade. To begin to solve the problem, though, Taylor had to first step back and draw on a lesson he had learned years before as a participant in the principal training program run by his employer, the Gwinnett County (Ga.) Public Schools. That program, which was set up in 2007, seeks to ensure that the district has a steady supply of high-caliber professionals ready to take on the top job. The instruction is based on the district’s job standards for principals and gives aspiring leaders an opportunity to sharpen the critical skills they’ll need to make a positive impact in schools. The lesson that came back to Taylor in his first year at Berkmar? An effective school leader empowers others to lead.

What Goes Into Improving School Climate? States want to ensure students and teachers feel safe and supported in classrooms and schools. There are countless ways education leaders try to make this happen, and many fall into what is often considered school climate, or the quality and character of school life. We have found that policymakers asking questions about school climate tend to focus on the overlapping areas of mental health, school discipline, and physical safety. If you’re a policymaker exploring school climate issues in your state, here is some context that may help.

Bringing back retired teachers offers benefits, challenges The Chicago Teachers Union saw a victory this past spring when Illinois legislators increased the number of days retired teachers can substitute teach without losing pension benefits by 20 percent, from 100 days a year to 120. The state is also extending through 2021 a law that lets retired teachers go back to teaching for a full school year without the usual “return to work” restrictions, such as the “post-retirement” work limit of 120 days or 600 hours. The caveat, though, is that the teaching job must be in a district specifically determined by the regional superintendent to have a shortage in the subject area the retiree will be teaching.  (Education Dive, July 16)

Introducing: Series Two of The Principal Pipeline Podcast Last year, we launched The Principal Pipeline podcast, featuring in-depth conversations with leaders implementing principal pipelines in their states and districts. Now, following the release of research showing that these efforts were effective, we’re back with more episodes. In the first episode, Linda Chen, the chief academic officer for the New York City public schools, and Susan Gates, co-principal investigator of the new study, walk listeners through important findings on student outcomes and their significance. And Wanda Luz Vazquez, an experienced New York City principal, discusses her experience as a “pipeline” principal. The findings confirmed what practitioners know, Chen says: “A great principal really impacts the outcomes of students.”

Official: State emergency teacher licenses up 54% in 2018-19 An ongoing teacher shortage led Oklahoma public schools to hire roughly 1,000 more nonaccredited teachers in the most recent school year compared to 2017-2018, and that number is expected to rise, according to state education officials. State public schools employed 3,038 nonaccredited teachers in 2018-2019, which is 54 percent more than the 1,975 who were hired in the previous school year. The state Board of Education received a recommendation list Thursday to certify another 818 teachers, which included 531 renewals, the Tulsa World reported. Roughly 180 of those are for Tulsa Public Schools, including 160 renewals.

Modernizing the Teaching Workforce for Learner-Centered, Competency-Based, Equity-Oriented Education: State Policy Recommendations This issue brief highlights state policy opportunities to create a shared vision to modernize professional learning for educators in a K-12, competency-based education system. Educators will be prepared for a future-focused profession that better meets the 21st-century demands of student learning and workforce needs. In it, we make five recommendations to leverage the unique role of state policymaking.

Developing a Modern Teacher Workforce: Federal Policy Recommendations for Professional Learning and Supporting Future-Focused, Competency-Based Education Systems This issue brief highlights federal policy opportunities to improve and modernize professional learning and development for educators for competency-based education systems. Three policy recommendations are identified: diversifying pathways into the teaching profession, catalyzing innovation to redesign teacher preparation, and developing meaningful systems of assessments and evaluation. The brief also articulates specific policy actions for each recommendation which include: increasing affordability and institute incentives to expand and diversifying the teacher workforce, supporting innovation in teacher education to enable 21st-century learning and helping states build balanced systems of assessments to support 21st-century learning.

Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education This publication re-envisions professional practice, learning, and development for educators in competency-based education. As school districts transition to new, more powerful student-centered learning models, it’s critical that educators leading the transformative practice are equipped for their new roles. Moving Toward Mastery describes a teaching profession that is equity-oriented, learning-centered and lifelong; it recommends 15 strategies that can help school districts successfully make this paradigm shift. Building off examples of effective teaching, professional development and practice across the nation, the new report explores how communities can work together to prompt and sustain complex systems change of moving both students and teachers from a one-size-fits-all approach to education to one in which all students and all teachers can succeed.