A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

The Teacher's Guide to the U.S. Department of Education - September 2000

The Challenge

Many efforts are under way to improve teaching in America. However, much work remains to be done. Statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the 1996 report by the National Commission on Teaching and America?s Future show that we have a long way to go to ensure that this priority is met. NCES and the commission point to a number of distressing trends in American teaching. Their findings include the following:

Meeting the Challenge

The U.S. Department of Education is working aggressively to improve teaching in America?s schools and has organized its efforts around the strategies below.

Recruiting and Supporting New Teachers

Over the next decade, the nation?s schools will need to hire 2.2 million teachers; more than half will be newcomers. The resulting teacher turnover will provide the nation with an opportunity to improve its recruitment and preparation of new teachers. New teachers need to be well prepared to teach all students to the highest standards, even as classrooms grow more challenging and diverse. The administration has put in place or proposed the following programs to strengthen the preparation and recruitment of new teachers.

Strengthening Standards in the Profession

States and districts need to put in place standards and assessments that reflect the increasing knowledge and skills that teaching demands. We must encourage more rigorous state and local systems of accountability and standards for teacher licensing.

Improving Professional Development

Research indicates that teachers? knowledge and skills make a crucial difference in how well students learn. Research also demonstrates the value of intensive high-quality professional development that is sustained, collaborative and content-based. As we demand more and more from our nation?s teachers, we must ensure that they have ongoing opportunities to learn and to improve their teaching.

The Department established a Professional Development Team in 1994 to carry out an important mission: to prepare and support educators to help all students achieve to high standards of learning and development. What are the qualities of the Professional Development Team members?

The following programs guide the Department?s efforts to improve professional development:

Rewarding Good Teaching

The Department has made a commitment to supporting accomplished teachers and the work of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The National Board is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan, and nongovernmental organization governed by a 63-member board of directors, a majority of whom are classroom teachers. Other directors include school administrators, school board leaders, governors and state legislators, higher education officials, and business and community leaders. The National Board?s mission is to establish high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. The Board is developing a national voluntary system to assess and certify teachers who meet these standards and advancing related education reforms to improve student learning.

Funding from the Department supports the development of assessments for the many certificate areas and helps defray the cost to teachers who apply for board certification. The National Board also receives funding from certification fees, as well as from private foundations and corporations.

For more information about the National Board, please call 800-22-TEACH or write to
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
26555 Evergreen, Suite 400
Southfield, Mi 48076.

Strengthening School Leadership

Principals who are strong instructional leaders are critical of efforts to improve teaching and student achievement. The Department hosted a Principals? Leadership Summit in July 2000, with some 100 principals from around the country attending. The principals shared their ideas with the Department of Education on topics such as planning, research, and activities relating to principal and school leadership.

Supporting Research, Development, and Dissemination

When promising practices are identified, they need to be disseminated to others who want to improve. The nation needs continued research and dissemination of best practices concerning teacher recruitment, preparation, licensure and ongoing support. The Center for the Study of Teaching Policy, a consortium of universities, focuses on ways that education policies can improve the recruitment and retention of capable teachers, develop their knowledge and skills, and support their work and student education simultaneously.

Raising Awareness and Measuring Our Progress

As we raise our expectations for student learning, we must raise the awareness of educators, policy-makers and the public about the importance of good teaching. Research that measures our progress will tell us how much we have improved and what remains to be done. Efforts to raise awareness include the following:

New and Expanded Initiatives

The following describe the nine "New and Expanded Initiatives" and how they improve teaching nationwide. To learn more about these and other initiatives, call 800-USA-LEARN.

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