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Improving Access to Great Teachers and Leaders

The teacher and leader pathways program would also offer competitive grants to states and school districts to recruit, prepare and retain effective principals and school leadership teams with the skills to turn around low-performing schools.

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The president’s budget rightly prioritizes investments in improving access to great teachers and school leaders through a greater investment in competitive grant programs that support promising practices. The budget invests almost a billion dollars in a new program that will increase the number of effective teachers and principals in high-needs schools. The initiative resembles a proposal that CAP offered in a January 2009 report.

The Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund will offer competitive awards to states and districts that take performance-based approaches to recruiting, retaining, and rewarding effective educators, much like the existing Teacher Incentive Fund. This shows that the administration is focused on what works. As CAP’s Robin Chait and Raegen Miller have argued, TIF is an important and promising way to improve the way that states and districts compensate talented educators.

The budget slightly decreases funding for Title II of ESEA by $400 million. Title II is intended to improve teacher and principal quality and would require states to take Title II formula funds to develop strong teacher evaluation systems. These are good changes since there is little evidence that the current Title II program is actually improving teacher quality, and a great deal of recent research has highlighted the inadequacy of teacher evaluation systems. Improvements to these systems are a necessary foundation for improvements to many other teacher-related policies, such as compensation systems and tenure processes.

The budget also offers $405 million in funding for a new Teacher and Leader Pathways program that consolidates existing pathways programs to support competitive grants to school districts to create and expand high-quality pathways into teaching and increase the number of effective teachers in high-need schools and subject shortage areas. CAP has long proposed a greater federal investment in high-quality alternative certification programs targeted to high-needs schools.

The teacher and leader pathways program would also offer competitive grants to states and school districts to “recruit, prepare and retain effective principals and school leadership teams with the skills to turn around low-performing schools.” The focus on preparing leadership teams to turnaround low-performing schools is critical. One of the greatest challenges to districts’ capacity to turnaround schools is the challenge of finding the school leaders with the skills to do the work. Federal support for recruiting and preparing educators specifically to meet this need is a wise and much-needed investment.

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