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Improve Teacher Quality

Every public school student in America should be taught by highly qualified, well-trained and adequately supported teachers.

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Teachers are the single most important element in fostering student achievement. Every public school student in America should be taught by highly qualified, well-trained and adequately supported teachers. Nowhere is this need greater than in high-poverty, high-minority schools. The Center for American Progress proposes that the federal government promote state and local steps to recruit, retain, and reward a high quality teacher workforce.

The federal government should support experiments in the development of enriched career advancement structures that reflect the best practices in other fields. Elements of a restructured teacher compensation system should include: raising starting salaries to recruit well-prepared new teachers; basing a proportion of pay on teacher skills and knowledge and on teacher success in increasing student achievement; and providing incentive pay to work in challenging schools or to teach subjects with serious teacher shortages.

Another step would be to ensure all education funds are distributed based on student need, beginning with the reform of a Title I provision accounting for teachers. Most school districts make budgetary decisions that provide less money, not more, for low-performing and high-poverty schools. The federal “comparability” loophole needs to be closed by accounting for all teacher differences in pay. The federal government should reward states and districts that switch to weighted pupil allocation systems based on student needs—systems that account for actual teacher pay. These reforms will give more funding to the districts and schools that need it most.

Finally, the federal government should demand better information about the quality of America’s teachers. It should provide extra dollars to states that adopt data systems that longitudinally track student performance linked to their teachers. Use of such data can improve instruction and help rectify inequities in student opportunities for learning.

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