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Listening and Learning from Education Experts
Part 2: Republicans heed calls to streamline federal education programs, support more effective teachers

House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans understand an effective K-12 education system cannot be created solely by Washington bureaucrats. It must include insight from state and local education officials and other experts who better understand the needs of students.

Over the last year, committee Republicans have listened to parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and other education experts describe the problems confronting American classrooms. Of particular concern is the sheer volume of federal education programs – many of which have limited scope and impact on students, but exhaust valuable taxpayer resources. Additionally, these experts expressed frustration with outdated federal teacher quality requirements that value an educator’s tenure over his or her talent for inspiring greater student achievement.

To address the concerns we’ve heard from our nation’s school leaders, committee Republicans will soon introduce legislation to bring meaningful reform to K-12 education.

Support Better Teachers in Every Classroom

“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."

-      Ms. Kate Walsh, President, National Council on Teacher Quality
Hearing on “Education Reforms: Exploring Teacher Quality Initiatives,” July 27, 2011

“Investing in teachers is one of the critical ingredients to school reform in Denver. Essential to our reform strategy is empowering educators with meaningful feedback to enhance their instruction and maximize their impact on student achievement … [The framework stipulates] the principal is observing and giving feedback, peers are observing and giving feedback, there is student perception of the educators, as well as … looking at growth in their students' achievements.”

-      Mr. Thomas Boasberg, Superintendent, Denver Public Schools, Colorado
Hearing on “Education Reforms: Exploring Teacher Quality Initiatives,” July 27, 2011

The “Highly Qualified Teacher” provisions in No Child Left Behind were intended to encourage better educators in schools by rewarding teachers holding a bachelor’s degree, state certification or license, and knowledge of the subject matter. However, these requirements have placed too much emphasis on a teacher’s credentials and tenure instead of focusing on their ability to spur student learning.

The Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will repeal the overly-prescriptive “Highly Qualified Teacher” requirements and call on states and school districts to develop and implement their own teacher evaluation systems based on student learning. Additionally, the legislation will consolidate federal teacher programs into a flexible grant that state and school leaders can apply to the most effective initiatives. In order to help recruit and keep the best educators in local schools, states and districts will be allowed to implement creative approaches, such as performance pay and alternative paths to classroom certification.

Streamlined and Efficient Federal Education Programs 

“Rural school superintendents and school board members understand and respect the need for reasonable accountability and transparency as we receive and invest federal dollars. However we believe that there is much that is not reasonable about the ever-expanding nature of many federal obligations.”

-      Dr. Robert Grimesey, Jr., Superintendent, Orange County Public Schools, Virginia
Hearing on “Education Regulations: Burying Schools in Paperwork,” March 15, 2011

“A difference between the role of a philanthropic organization [like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation] and the government [is] I would say [philanthropic organizations] are faster at shutting down unsuccessful programs. That is the other thing: When they figure out that something is unsuccessful it doesn't take them a couple of years to shut down; it takes them a couple of months.”

-      Dr. Caroline Hoxby, Professor of Economics, Stanford University
Hearing on “Education Research: Identifying Effective Programs to Support Students and Teachers,” November 16, 2011

The U.S. Department of Education currently operates more than 80 programs tied to K-12 classrooms. Many of these programs are duplicative, and several have proven unsuccessful. As Dr. Hoxby explained, the federal government should learn from philanthropic organizations and their ability to quickly evaluate and eliminate ineffective programs. It’s time to get rid of programs that don’t work and focus on initiatives that help improve student achievement. 

The Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will eliminate more than 70 duplicative and ineffective federal education programs, reducing compliance burdens on school districts. The legislation also provides states and school districts enhanced flexibility in the use of federal education funds, so they can apply resources to the programs and initiatives that are most effective in meeting students’ needs. 

For more information on the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s efforts to reform K-12 education, or to read draft summaries of the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, visit

To read Part 1 of the series, click here.

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