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
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:
- American schools will need to hire more than 2 million teachers in the next decade due to increased student enrollment and the need to replace teachers who retire or otherwise leave the profession.
- Nationwide shortages of qualified teachers exist in certain subject areas, including mathematics, science, bilingual and special education, and foreign languages. High-poverty schools have the greatest difficulties hiring qualified teachers for their classrooms.
- Only 13 percent of our nation?s teachers are ethnic minorities, while 36 percent of their students are. No such faculty members are employed in over 40 percent of U.S. schools.
- New teacher turnover is a national problem. Twenty-two percent of new teachers leave the profession in their first three years, due in part to inadequate preparation and a "sink or swim" approach to induction. New teachers are not receiving the support they need and deserve.
- Standards for entering the teaching profession are often low, and states routinely waive them. Although no state will permit a person to write wills, practice medicine, or fix plumbing without having met the basic requirements of completing training and passing an examination, more than 40 states allow districts to hire teachers who have not met their basic requirements.
- More than 30 percent of new teachers are not fully certified to teach when they begin their careers.
- Because teachers are often misassigned, 13 percent of all secondary teachers of core academic subjects do not have even a minor in the subjects they are teaching. This lack of preparation is true of 22 percent of the teachers in schools with high percentages of low-income students.
- Teachers do not receive the support and ongoing learning opportunities they need. Four out of five teachers say they do not feel "very well prepared" for the realities of today?s classrooms?addressing the needs of diverse students and those with special needs, integrating technology into their instruction, and teaching to challenging standards.
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.
- The Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant programs in Title II of the Higher Education Act support comprehensive reforms in state policies; partnerships between higher education institutions (including schools of arts and sciences) and high-need school districts (to improve teacher education programs); and state and local efforts to recruit qualified teachers for high-need schools. A high-need local education agency is a public school district that serves an elementary or secondary school located in an area that has one or more of the following: (1) a high percentage of individuals from families with incomes below the poverty line; (2) a high percentage of secondary school teachers who are not teaching in the content area in which they were trained to teach; or (3) a high teacher turnover rate.
- Preparing Tomorrow?s Teachers to Use Technology provides grants to build the capacity of higher education institutions to ensure that new teachers are prepared to integrate technology effectively into the curriculum.
- A Contextual Teaching and Learning Project is studying, designing and disseminating teacher preparation and professional development models that prepare teachers to help students make connections between what they learn and its value both in and beyond school.
- A National Job Bank and Clearinghouse on Teacher Recruitment links teachers with the schools that need them and shares information on successful teacher recruitment programs and policies.
- A National Awards Program for Effective Teacher Preparation is a new awards program for effective teacher preparation programs developed by the Department. Applicants will be asked to provide evidence that their programs are successful in preparing teachers to increase student achievement.
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.
- The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, with funding from the Department, is working to develop assessments and to increase the number of highly accomplished teachers certified by the National Board.
- The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium receives Department funding for developing standards for initial teacher licensure for general and special educators.
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?
- They focus on individual, collegial, and organizational improvement.
- They respect and nurture the intellectual and leadership capacity of teachers, principals, and others in the school community.
- They reflect the best available research and practices in teaching, learning, and leadership.
- They enable teachers to develop further expertise in subject content, teaching strategies, use of technologies, and other essential elements in teaching to high standards.
- They promote continuous inquiry and improvement embedded in the daily life of schools.
- They plan collaboratively with those who will participate in and facilitate professional development.
- They must understand that professional development requires substantial time and other resources.
- They ensure that professional development is part of a coherent long-term plan.
- They are evaluated ultimately on their impact on teacher effectiveness and student learning.
The following programs guide the Department?s efforts to improve professional development:
- The Eisenhower Professional Development Program provides grants to states, school districts, and institutions of higher education to support high-quality professional development activities that are aligned with challenging state student performance standards.
- The National Awards Program for Model Professional Development identifies and disseminates information about schools and school districts that have demonstrated that their professional development has led to improved student achievement.
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:
- Speeches by Education Secretary Richard Riley. The National Press Club address on Sept. 15, 1998, and the State of American Education speech on Feb. 16, 1999, focused on teacher quality.
- Conferences on Teacher Quality. Hosted by the Department, these conferences include the September 1999 Presidents? Summit on Teacher Quality, which discussed the role of college and university presidents in improving teacher education; special sessions for deans at the Improving America?s Schools Conferences in fall 1999; a large National Conference on Teacher Quality in January 2000; and follow-up summer institutes for K-16 teams working to restructure teacher education.
- The Biennial National Report on Teacher Quality. First issued by the Department in January 1999, this report focuses public attention on the teaching profession and provides a way to measure the nation?s progress in recruiting, preparing and retaining high-quality teachers.
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.