WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 27, 2011 -
The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce today held a hearing to examine state and local initiatives to improve teacher effectiveness. During the hearing, entitled “Education Reforms: Exploring Teacher Quality Initiatives,” education leaders from Colorado, Tennessee, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C. discussed the importance of attracting and maintaining quality teachers in the nation’s classrooms.
Chairman John Kline (R-MN) expressed concerns about teacher quality policies under current law. He stated, “Valuing credentials and tenure over student outcomes is completely unacceptable. Every student deserves to be inspired and challenged by an outstanding educator, not one who has lost interest in helping students succeed and is protected by rigid teacher tenure rules. As we work to reform the nation’s education system, the committee will support state and local efforts to recruit and maintain more effective teachers in the nation’s classrooms.”
In prepared remarks, National Council on Teacher Quality president Kate Walsh said, “No education improvement strategy states and districts take on – and it is at the state and district level where nearly all teacher policy plays out – is likely to have a greater impact than one which seeks to maximize teacher performance. Improving teacher quality must be the centerpiece of any serious school reform effort… the policy context set by Congress and states is of central importance to ensuring that our nation’s students are exposed to the most well-trained, knowledgeable, and effective teachers possible."
Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman discussed a new statewide teacher evaluation system scheduled to go into effect in the upcoming school year. Mr. Huffman hopes the system will provide constructive feedback for teachers, while also offering an outlet to identify and share effective teaching methods.
Mr. Huffman also explained Tennessee’s efforts to improve teacher tenure practices: “Previously, teachers were granted tenure after three years, and virtually every teacher got it. It was a virtual rubber stamp. Moving forward, teachers are eligible for tenure after a minimum of five years and only if they score a four or a five on the evaluation for their most recent two years of teaching. Additionally, teachers who gain tenure under the new system will lose their tenure if they are rated a one or a two for two consecutive years.” Mr. Huffman added, “I believe this legislation will be groundbreaking for Tennessee over the coming decades. If there is any place for tenure in K-12 education, it must be tied to teacher effectiveness, not just initially but in an ongoing way.”
Denver Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Boasberg offered committee members an overview of Denver’s innovative Leading Effective Academic Practice (LEAP) system, which is designed to evaluate and reward the best educators. Mr. Boasberg said, “LEAP is the number one priority of the district because having a great teacher in every classroom is the most important thing driving student achievement and helping close the achievement gap.” Encouraging great teachers and engaged students, Mr. Boasberg concluded, will “create a much stronger economic and civic future.”
“I am heartened by what we’ve heard here today. I think you are making fantastic progress,” Chairman Kline said in his closing remarks. “We are going to continue to grapple with our role, with Washington’s role in what you’re doing. I can tell you that as a very minimum, we want you to be able to continue with what you’re doing, with the successes that we’ve seen.”
To read witness testimony, opening statements, or watch an archived webcast of the hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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