The Secretary's Third Annual Report on Teacher Quality
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Chapter Two: Toward a Highly Qualified Teacher In Every Classroom: Partnership in Action
"There is no better way to improve education than by putting a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. The No Child Left Behind Act recognized this fact, and we continue to work hard with states to make it a reality."
- Secretary Rod Paige

During the past year, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has continued its partnership with states, institutions, schools and teachers to improve teacher preparation, raise standards for teachers and students and improve teaching and learning. It is one of the highest priorities at the Department. In addition, ED continues to support national teacher quality initiatives that are designed to bring together and mobilize stakeholder groups across the country in innovative ways.

Federal Activities in Support of Increased Teacher Quality

During the past year, the Department has:

  • Issued guidance to states to offer common-sense flexibility to implement the teacher quality provisions of NCLB and clarify federal requirements.
  • Launched the Teacher Assistance Corps, which completed visits to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, to provide support to state agencies as they carry out the highly qualified teacher provisions of NCLB.
  • Initiated several events and vehicles to communicate directly with teachers, including updating and publishing No Child Left Behind: A Toolkit for Teachers.
  • Provided substantial and flexible funding to meet the teacher quality challenge as it manifests itself in states, local communities and schools.
  • Continued to refine and improve the accuracy and usefulness of the Title II data collection and reporting system.
  • Launched new rigorous research studies that will help establish what works in teacher preparation and professional development.
  • Funded several innovative initiatives in the areas of alternative certification, teacher advancement and closing the teacher quality gap.

Issuing Guidance

The concepts that every child deserves to be taught by a highly qualified teacher and that teachers should not have to teach courses outside their areas of expertise are simple. However, what states, institutions and school systems need to do to achieve these goals can seem complex and challenging. To help, the Department has provided direct technical assistance and guidance to those charged with implementing teacher quality provisions at the state and local levels as well as given clear and concise information to teachers themselves.

In September 2003 and January 2004, ED issued successive editions of nonregulatory guidance concerning the administration of the Title II, Part A, program under NCLB. This guidance provides answers to many of the questions raised by those in the field about teacher quality and the administration of the Improving Teacher Quality State Grants program. In particular, the guidance encourages state departments of education and local school districts to take advantage of the flexibility provided within the law to set certification standards that allow qualified individuals to enter teaching, to target funds to improve teaching and learning for programs that work and to tailor this national initiative for excellence to their unique needs.

A March 2004 update, resulting directly from issues raised during Teacher Assistance Corps visits, describes the new areas of flexibility for teachers to demonstrate that they are highly qualified. The new flexibility, as discussed in Chapter 1, addresses rural, science and multi-subject teachers. This flexibility will benefit teachers, local and state administrators and--most importantly--students.

Establishing the Teacher Assistance Corps

In the past year, ED launched the Teacher Assistance Corps (TAC)--a team of 45 education experts, researchers and practitioners who, along with senior Department program staff, provided support to states as they carry out the highly qualified teacher provisions of the law. TAC members traveled to states and performed on-site reviews tailored to the explicit needs and concerns of state officials. The teams offered guidance and feedback on state efforts, addressed specific state challenges and provided useful information from other states about promising practices in the field. TAC completed visits to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The Teacher Assistance Corps will continue to provide support and guidance for states as they implement the highly qualified teacher requirements of NCLB.

"Most states are genuinely looking for ways to meet the requirements and understand that all children do deserve the best teacher we can give them."
- Sharon Yates, Professor, Belmont University, Teacher Assistance Corps member

Disseminating a Toolkit for Teachers on NCLB

To better answer the many questions ED receives from teachers about the highly qualified teacher provisions and other aspects of NCLB, this past year the Department prepared and widely disseminated the publication, No Child Left Behind: A Toolkit for Teachers (available online at http://www.ed.gov/teachers/ nclbguide/nclb-teachers-toolkit.pdf). The toolkit is designed specifically to provide teachers with valuable information about NCLB and how it supports teachers. It includes a general overview of the law; details about the highly qualified teacher provisions; guidance on understanding the federal, state and local roles in NCLB; valuable information about loan forgiveness, tax credits and liability protection for teachers; useful Web resources, including resources for teaching students with disabilities and English language learners; and information about using data to influence classroom decisions. More than 100,000 booklets and interactive compact discs were distributed in 2003. This year, the Department has updated the Toolkit for Teachers, and will increase efforts to distribute it to teachers around the nation.

Providing Substantial and Flexible Funding

The federal government supports states, institutions and districts in conducting a wide variety of activities aimed at improving teacher quality through formula and discretionary grant programs. President George W. Bush's proposed budget for FY 2005 includes more than $5.1 billion--an increase of more than half a billion dollars over the previous year--to support teachers through training, recruitment, incentives, loan forgiveness and tax relief. Highlights include:

  • $2.9 billion for Improving Teacher Quality State Grants to give states and school districts the flexibility to select the research-based strategies that best meet their needs for teaching improvements that will raise student achievement in core academic subjects.
  • $269.1 million for Mathematics and Science Partnerships to improve academic achievement in mathematics and science by promoting strong teaching skills for elementary and secondary teachers. Grants support activities to develop rigorous mathematics and science curricula, distance learning programs and incentives to recruit college graduates with degrees in math and science into the teaching profession.
  • $91.4 million for Special Education Personnel Preparation to ensure that there are adequate numbers of personnel with the skills and knowledge necessary to help children with disabilities succeed educationally. Program activities focus on both meeting the demand for personnel to serve children with disabilities and improving the qualifications of these personnel, with particular emphasis on incorporating knowledge gained from research and practice into training programs.
  • $88.9 million for Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants to improve the recruitment, preparation, licensing and support of new teachers. Partnership grants support a wide range of reforms and improvements in teacher preparation programs. Recruitment grants help reduce shortages of qualified teachers in high-need school districts through scholarships, support services and recruitment efforts.
  • $45.3 million for Transition to Teaching Grants to recruit and retain highly qualified mid-career professionals (including highly qualified paraprofessionals) and recent college graduates as teachers in high-need schools in high-need districts and enable these individuals to receive full teacher certification through alternate routes.
  • $14.8 million for Early Childhood Educator Professional Development focusing on professional development (especially in teaching prereading skills to young children) for early childhood educators and caregivers working in high-poverty communities.
  • Increasing loan forgiveness for highly qualified math, science and special education teachers serving low-income communities from $5,000 to a maximum of $17,500. Schools in these communities often are forced to hire uncertified teachers or assign teachers who are teaching out-of-field.
  • Expanding the above-the-line tax deduction for qualified out-of-pocket classroom expenses incurred by teachers from $250 to $400.
The Milwaukee Partnership Academy
With the support of an FY 1999 Teacher Quality Enhancement Partnership Grant, the Milwaukee Partnership Academy: An Urban P-16 Council for Quality Teaching and Learning was designed to develop a comprehensive prototype for preparing future K-8 teachers to succeed in urban, high-need schools through a strong and unique local partnership. The academy also aims to improve the education of all children through better preparation, recruitment and retention of teachers for urban schools. Since its inception, the Milwaukee Partnership Academy has evolved into a system-to-system reform model that focuses on the entire Milwaukee Public School system and has expanded to include Pre-K and K-12 teachers and faculty. As a result of this project, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was able to focus on and initiate reform in a number of areas: (1) the redesign of course sequence in content courses taken by teacher education students; (2) the redesign of course work and field experiences for teachers; (3) recruitment of urban teachers through a partnership agreement with Milwaukee Area Technical College; (4) the use of experienced master teachers from the Milwaukee Public Schools (teachers-in-residence) in all aspects of teacher preparation; (5) the use of multiple entry points to teaching, including alternative certification programs to recruit and train prospective teachers from the nonteaching employment ranks of the Milwaukee Public Schools; and (6) school-based induction support and professional development for beginning teachers.

The Milwaukee Partnership Academy Governance Council has broad-based community support. The Executive Committee has 10 key partners, including the superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, the executive director of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association, the president of the Milwaukee Area Technical College, the president of the Private Industry Council, the president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, the president of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a member of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the mayor of the City of Milwaukee and the executive director of the Bader Foundation.

Other federal education programs also target improvements in teacher professionalism and improved teaching and learning. For instance, the Teaching American History grant program supports projects to raise student achievement by improving teachers' knowledge, understanding and appreciation for American history through intensive, ongoing professional development. Troops-to-Teachers helps improve public school education by providing funds to recruit, prepare and support former members of the military services as teachers in high-poverty schools. In addition, pro-grams such as Title I, Reading First and Enhancing Education Through Technology incorporate substantial professional development components targeted to improving student achievement.
Even more significantly, NCLB provides flexibility for states and districts to provide leadership by taking advantage of transfer-ability provisions to target federal resources as they see fit, without separate requests and approval. For example, under Title I, states and districts have the flexibility to leverage other federal program resources to under-take a wide variety of activities to build the capacity of teachers to raise student achievement.

"I believe the reporting requirements of Title II have caused states to become more cognizant of the need to constantly and carefully study available data and use the results to affect changes designed to continually improve the quality of the teaching."
- Wendell Cave, Staff Assistant, Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board

Refining the Title II Data System

Two necessary steps toward greater account-ability for the quality of teachers are reliable and valid data collection and clear reporting to students, parents, the public and policy-makers. In recognition of this fact, both HEA and NCLB require annual reporting of data to the Department on the quality of teacher preparation. Because teacher quality accountability mechanisms--in many cases--simply did not exist prior to the passage of these laws or were technically incompatible, it has taken time to implement and standardize them. Indeed, data collection and reporting mechanisms at the institutional, state and federal levels have all come under scrutiny during implementation for their accuracy and validity by a variety of organizations, including the General Accounting Office, the Education Trust, and the Center for Education Policy--and rightly so. Inaccurate, invalid or unreliable data about the quality of teachers serves to obscure the real extent of the teacher quality challenge, especially as it contributes to the working conditions of teachers and educational achievement gaps between students of different races and means. ED fully recognizes the importance of these data collections and continues to work diligently with the states on an ongoing basis to improve data collection.

Data presented in this report draw most heavily on those required to be collected by Title II of the HEA. That law requires three annual reports on teacher preparation. First, institutions of higher education are to report various data to states. These data include the pass rates on state certification and licensure examinations of students completing their teacher-training programs. Second, using reports from institutions of higher education, as well as other sources, states are to report the following information to the Department:

  • State certification and licensure requirements for completers of traditional and alternate teacher preparation programs.
  • Statewide pass rates on the most recent state assessments of graduates of teacher preparation programs as well as pass rates disaggregated by institution and quartile rankings of their institutions based on their pass rates.
  • The number of teachers on waivers or emergency and temporary permits.
  • Information on teacher standards and their alignment with student standards.
  • Criteria for identifying low-performing schools of education.

Finally, through the present document, the secretary of education reports to Congress on national patterns in these data and their implications. (See http://www.title2.org for additional information about this data collection, including online access to state data.)

The HEA Title II data collection and reporting system is now entering its fourth year of operation. During that time, ED has worked with states to improve the accuracy and usefulness of these data by refining the online data collection system. States have worked to eliminate inconsistent responses and reduce incomplete responses. In addition, the Department has provided extensive technical assistance and support via telephone and e-mail--including at least monthly conference calls--to assist state Title II coordinators in resolving data and reporting issues.

Nonetheless, challenges remain. For instance, reporting data regarding the numbers and characteristics of teachers on waivers is difficult for many state data collection and reporting systems. Reasons for this difficulty vary from state to state but include issues such as the timing of data collections, the level of data collection (district vs. state) and definitional issues within and across states. To address these and related issues, during the coming year further enhancements to the HEA Title II data collection and reporting system are planned, primarily focusing on improving the alignment of HEA Title II reporting requirements with NCLB. Some of these improvements will need to be made through statutory changes in HEA.

Evaluating What Works in Improving Teacher Quality

The current nationwide emphasis on ensuring that all students and schools achieve at high levels has increased the demand for sound evidence regarding "what works" in education. In fact, a recent study by the Institute of Education Sciences found that policymakers at all levels believe that teacher quality-related issues, including teacher preparation, recruitment and professional development, should be a high priority for further rigorous research (Huang, Reiser, Parker, Muniec and Salvucci, 2003).

To that end, ED has recently funded, or will soon be launching, a number of rigorous studies that will shed light on the relationship of teacher quality to student achievement or teacher retention. These studies include:

  • Impact of Professional Development Models and Strategies on Teacher Practice and Student Achievement. This random assignment study is designed to evaluate the impact of professional development on changes in teacher practice and student achievement in early reading.
  • Impact Evaluation of Teacher Preparation Models. This random assignment study will evaluate the effects of different amounts of teacher preparation on student achievement, taking advantage of the existing variation in teacher training across different routes to certification--both alternative and traditional.
  • An Evaluation of the Impact of Teacher Induction Programs. This evaluation, to be awarded by September 2004, will examine the effectiveness of different strategies of teacher induction in increasing teacher retention rates among novice teachers.

In addition, forthcoming findings from a descriptive study of the Transition to Teaching Program, which is designed to bring highly qualified individuals into the teaching work-force through the creation and expansion of alternative approaches to certification, will help policymakers develop effective approaches in the areas of teacher preparation, teacher certification and teacher retention.

As a complement to supporting rigorous research studies, ED created the "What Works Clearinghouse" (http://www.w-w-c.org). The clearinghouse provides educators and policy-makers with an easily accessible Web-based database of high-quality scientific reviews on what works in educating students. These reviews on various interventions and programs will support informed local decision-making and the effective implementation of NCLB. In addition, the reviews will help inform teachers and administrators as they seek to improve student achievement for all students.

Other Promising Initiatives for Addressing the Teacher Quality Challenge

Improving the quality of teacher preparation is as important as any education challenge that has faced the nation. To this end, the Department is committed to continuing to forge strong partnerships with states, institutions and national organizations, such as the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence, the National Center for Alternative Certification, Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, to help to continue building momentum for change. Yet, all will need to fully embrace and rally around this critically important goal if we are to succeed. The opportunity to make real and lasting improvements in the recruitment, preparation, assignment and support of teachers will require nothing less than a national commitment.

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Last Modified: 12/04/2009