WASHINGTON, D.C. | January 11, 2012 -
The teacher quality policies included in No Child Left Behind were intended to encourage better educators in schools. But in the 10 years since the law’s enactment, we’ve realized the requirements place too much emphasis on a teacher’s credentials and tenure, and pay little attention to student learning.
Under current law, an educator is considered “highly qualified” if he or she has earned a bachelor’s degree, holds a state certification or license, and can demonstrate knowledge of the subject matter in question. Many states have coupled these federal requirements with additional prerequisites, including advanced certifications, graduate degrees, and experience.
As a result, schools have come to value a teacher’s résumé over his or her ability to keep students engaged, challenged, and progressing in the classroom.
When it comes to getting better teachers in our schools, these “Highly Qualified Teacher” provisions can do more harm than good. As former elementary school teacher Deborah Ball stated at a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing:
“Right now, teachers are considered qualified simply by participating in an approved program or completing an academic major. This means that being qualified does not depend on demonstrating that you can teach.”
In addition to No Child Left Behind’s prescriptive teacher requirements, a 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed more than 80 distinct federal programs designed to help improve teacher quality. Not only does this jumble of programs add to the confusion and red tape already facing school officials and educators, it is also a costly burden for taxpayers. According to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the federal government spent over four billion dollars on these programs in fiscal year 2009, yet little is known about whether they are actually successful.
In an effort to streamline federal teacher policy and support more effective educators in American classrooms, Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans have released two draft legislative proposals that rewrite current education law.
These proposals repeal the Highly Qualified Teacher requirements and consolidate federal teacher programs into a flexible grant that state and school leaders can apply to the most effective initiatives. The legislation also includes provisions for school districts to develop and implement their own teacher evaluation systems based on student learning. Additionally, the legislation will support creative approaches, such as performance pay and alternative paths to certification, to help recruit and keep the most effective educators in our schools.
Every child deserves to be inspired by a great teacher. By putting more control back in the hands of state and local leaders, the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will help make this bipartisan goal a reality for more students.
Throughout the week, the committee will release a series of documents outlining how the new proposals benefit children and families, protect schools from overly prescriptive federal mandates, and encourage innovation in the classroom. To see previous documents from this series, click here:
Part 1: New Republican Proposals Advance Education Reform
Part 2: Returning Responsibility for Student Achievement to State and Local Leaders
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