Department of Education Announces Changes in Teacher Quality Requirements
On March 15, 2004, the administration announced changes in the way that it will be implementing provisions related to teacher quality under the No Child Left Behind Act (“NCLBA”). The administration’s new rules provide greater flexibility in implementation of the teacher quality requirements with respect to three types of teachers: (1) rural teachers who teach more than one subject; (2) any teacher teaching more than one subject; and (3) science teachers. The rules provide a three year extension of the requirements for rural teachers who teach more than one subject and allow states to create a streamlined system for any teacher teaching more than one subject to demonstrate sufficient expertise in each subject. States also may determine whether a science teacher must demonstrate competence in “broad field science” rather than individual fields (e.g., physics or chemistry).
These changes are a belated attempt to provide more flexibility for states in implementing the teacher quality requirements. Most of the changes are welcome, if overdue, but the administration continues to duck the real issues. Schools – particularly those in rural and high-poverty areas – need larger federal investments in teacher quality efforts. Teachers in these schools need greater incentives and support services, including professional development, assistance in going back to school when necessary, and mentoring.
The president’s 2005 budget shortchanges teacher quality efforts and fails to ensure that all teachers are highly qualified:
The president’s budget contains $9.4 billion less than the levels authorized under NCLBA. His budget provides for no increases for the teacher quality program in the NCLBA or the Higher Education Act program designed to improve teacher preparation. The small increases proposed by the president for some programs authorized by NCLBA are funded through cuts in other areas – the president eliminates funding for 38 existing education programs – and fall far short of the amounts promised in NCLBA.
A recent House Appropriations Committee report demonstrates that the administration’s proposed budget would actually result in steep reductions in education funding overall – cutting $1.9 billion in 2006 with cuts reaching $4.6 billion in FY2009. These reductions will result in drastic cuts in services, including support services for teachers.
The federal government must partner with states, school districts and schools to ensure competitive compensation systems for teachers (including those in high poverty communities), high quality teacher preparation, professional development and mentoring programs.
Teacher salaries must be made more competitive with salaries in other professions. A recent report by the Teaching Commission estimated that just $30 billion – less than one tenth of what the nation already invests in education – could give all teachers a 10 percent raise, and the top half of all teachers a 30 percent incentive increase. Assistance should be provided to help current teachers improve their skills and qualifications. High quality, ongoing professional development and mentoring programs for new teachers are needed to retain qualified teachers and help all teachers to improve instruction.
In order to eliminate achievement gaps, we must invest in efforts to eliminate the enormous disparities in teacher quality between high-poverty and low-poverty schools. Currently, students in high poverty classrooms are much more likely to be taught by unqualified teachers. For example, they are 77 percent more likely than students in low poverty classrooms to be assigned to teachers with no expertise in the subjects they teach. Students in low poverty districts are 66 percent more likely to be taught by uncertified teachers. Incentives, such as bonuses and reduced course loads, are needed to attract highly qualified teachers to these schools.
Sources of Information on Teacher Quality
Craig Jerald and Richard Ingersoll. All Talk, No Action: Putting an End to Out-of-Field Teaching. Education Trust, 2002.
National Center for Education Statistics, “Monitoring Quality: An Indicators Report,” December 2000.
Telling the Whole Truth (Or Not) about Highly Qualified Teachers, Education Trust, December 2003 (report criticizing administration’s implementation of the teacher quality provisions of NCLBA).
Teaching at Risk: A Call to Action, the Teaching Commission, 2004