The Secretary's Third Annual Report on Teacher Quality
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Chapter Four: Building Momentum
"Innovation in teacher preparation and licensure is essential to our goal of filling all classrooms with highly qualified teachers so that all students receive a top-notch education. Highly qualified teachers are the key to ensuring that our nation's students are academically prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce."
- Sally L. Stroup, Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education

With the unprecedented cooperation and dedication of state and district officials, administrators and teachers around the country, progress is being made in many states and institutions in addressing the teacher quality challenge. This is truly heartening news. We know that high-quality teachers are critically important to closing persistent academic achievement gaps that have been experienced for too long between students of different races, ethnic backgrounds and means. We also know that successfully identifying and replicating innovative strategies to recruit, retain and support high-quality teachers will solve many of the problems currently facing our education system. In pursuing these strategies, we must hold true to two key principles: the need to continue to raise academic standards for teachers while at the same time working to lower barriers that are keeping many talented people out of the teaching profession.

Over the last year the Department has continued its focus on issues of teacher quality, from offering common-sense flexibility in implementing the teacher quality provisions of NCLB, to providing direct technical assistance to states through the Teacher Assistance Corps, to creating new teacher-friendly materials on NCLB. In addition, for FY 2005, the Bush administration has proposed more than $5.1 billion in spending to support teachers through training, recruitment, incentives, loan forgiveness and tax relief. In partnership with states, institutions and national organizations, the Department is looking forward to continuing this important work.

While we are making progress in meeting the teacher quality challenge, more--much more--remains to be done. In the coming year, the Department will continue its work in assisting states in meeting the NCLB requirement that, by the end of school year 2005-2006, all teachers of core academic subjects are highly qualified. To that end, in April 2004 the Department launched the Teacher to Teacher Initiative: Supporting Success, components of which include:

  • Teacher Roundtables. This spring and summer, the Department of Education will host discussions with teachers around the country on effective teaching, professional development, teacher leadership and ways to advance the teaching profession. The emphasis will be on listening and engaging teachers about what support they need to meet the academic needs of students.
  • Summer Workshops. Teachers and education experts who have improved student achievement and closed the achievement gap will share experiences with fellow teachers on how to emulate these programs. Teachers will also receive additional resources, such as online assistance, to support them as they incorporate new strategies in the classroom.
  • The Research-to-Practice Summit. To be held in summer 2004 in Washington, D.C., this summit comprises a day of listening to and learning from experts in the field of scientifically based research and from teachers with success in improving their students' achievement levels.
  • Teacher E-mail Updates. Electronic updates will keep teachers apprised of the latest policy, research and developments in the profession.

The initiative also includes a new Web site--www.teacherquality.us--with information about effective practices and initiatives at the state and local levels and upcoming teacher-oriented events. Educators may apply for one of the summer workshops or register for the e-mail updates on the Web site.

In addition, the reauthorization of HEA remains on the horizon. Throughout its nearly 40-year existence, the law has succeeded in ensuring that all students--young and old, part-time or full-time, traditional and nontraditional--receive the basic support needed to pursue a postsecondary education.

Throughout the HEA reauthorization process, the Department expects to highlight the need for highly qualified teachers in every classroom, as well as the need to improve the academic rigor of our K-12 schools, to ensure that:

  • More students complete their secondary education.
  • More students pursue, and are academically prepared for, postsecondary education and training.
  • More students complete their postsecondary education and training goals.
  • All students are prepared for an ever-changing workforce.

Now, more than ever before, our country and economy place a premium on higher education. With increasing concerns about the need for American workers to remain competitive in a global environment, we recognize that students must be equipped with the tools necessary to adapt to the changing economy and to emerging industries.

To further our goal of having a highly qualified teacher in every classroom, we must expand our traditional approaches for preparing teachers by recognizing the value of new and nontraditional approaches to preparation that can be made available to anyone, anytime and anywhere. Several important components of HEA are dedicated to promoting innovation in teacher preparation and licensure, ensuring our teachers are the best in the world. Notably, the Title II discretionary grant programs, which provide grants to states and partnerships for the innovation and reform of teacher certification, licensure and preservice education; the teacher loan forgiveness programs; and the teacher recruitment grants all provide resources for training, recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers.

It is the Department's belief that we can all learn from and help one another as we work toward the same goal. For its part, the Department will continue to listen to and engage with teachers about what support they need to meet the academic needs of students, continue to forge partnerships with all those who seek to produce high-quality teachers by raising standards and lowering barriers, continue to advocate for highly qualified and effective teachers for all the nation's students and continue to shed light on the progress of states and institutions in meeting this critical goal.

For their part, states and institutions should continue to improve their teacher quality accountability systems until data collection and reporting systems are reliable, valid, timely and directly tied to student academic performance. State standards for students and teachers should be revised as necessary to be clear, rigorous, relevant and tightly aligned with each other and with student assessments. The academic rigor of state certification requirements should be increased to ensure teacher mastery of core subject areas, while other bureaucratic barriers to teaching should be lessened, including barriers to alternative routes to certification. Finally, states and localities must ensure that sufficient energy and incentives are in place so that highly qualified and effective teachers are uniformly available to all students in every subject no matter their income or background. Such a collective national effort will help us to continue to support and reward the best and brightest of the nation's teachers and build national momentum toward providing all our students with the highly qualified teachers they deserve.

The Benwood Initiative
In 2000, the Benwood Foundation of Chattanooga, Tenn., learned that nine of the state’s 20 lowest performing schools were in Chattanooga. In response, the Benwood Foundation, together with the Public Education Foundation and Hamilton County Schools, formed the Benwood Initiative. The two foundations together committed $7.5 million to improve those nine schools so that by 2007, 100 percent of all third-graders would be reading above or at grade level. A core strategy for achieving this goal was to recruit, train and retain high-performing teachers.

In 2001 and each subsequent year, each school in the initiative received a grant of $100,000 to be devoted solely to professional development of all teachers, the addition of full-time reading experts who coach and train all staff and a small number of reading interventionists who work with the lowest performing readers. Superintendent Jesse Register reconstituted the staff of all nine schools; 100 of 270 teachers left these schools in 2002. Register replaced six of nine principals, added an assistant principal at each school and created an office of urban education.

In 2002, the Weldon F. Osborne Foundation agreed to underwrite the cost of developing an entirely new urban elementary education master's degree at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and pay the tuition of the first 100 teachers from the nine schools. Chattanooga's Mayor, Bob Corker, 12 business leaders and representatives from the district and the foundations used city tax revenues to offer salary supplements of $5,000 to individual teachers whose students show high gains on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System. Team bonuses were also offered to all full-time certificated staff in schools with exemplary system scores. Financial assistance was offered to teachers who wanted to purchase a home in the neighborhoods of the schools and legal fees were provided gratis by the local bar association.

The combination of extensive, high-quality professional training, additional staff, strong building and district leadership and incentives has yielded exceptional improvement in all nine schools. In the first two years of the initiative, the nine targeted schools have made gains twice the district average in all five subject areas tested by the state of Tennessee. The gains in reading are also higher than 90 percent of all elementary schools in Tennessee.

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Last Modified: 12/04/2009