A Blueprint for Reform
The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
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Great Teachers and Great Leaders

Of all the work that occurs at every level of our education system, the interaction between teacher and student is the primary determinant of student success.

A great teacher can make the difference between a student who achieves at high levels and a student who slips through the cracks, and a great principal can help teachers succeed as part of a strong, well-supported instructional team. Research shows that top-performing teachers can make a dramatic difference in the achievement of their students, and suggests that the impact of being assigned to top-performing teachers year after year is enough to significantly narrow achievement gaps. We have to do more to ensure that every student has an effective teacher, every school has effective leaders, and every teacher and leader has access to the preparation, on-going support, recognition, and collaboration opportunities he or she need to succeed. Our proposals will ask states and districts to put in place the conditions that allow for teachers, principals, and leaders at all levels of the school system to get meaningful information about their practice, and support them in using this information to ensure that all students are getting the effective teaching they deserve.

A New Approach

  • Elevating the profession and focusing on recruiting, preparing, developing, and rewarding effective teachers and leaders.
  • Focusing on teacher and leader effectiveness in improving student outcomes.
  • Supporting states and districts that are willing to take bold action to increase the number of effective teachers and leaders where they are needed most.
  • Strengthening pathways into teaching and school leadership positions in highneed schools.

Effective Teachers and Leaders

Our proposal will continue and improve formula grants to states and school districts to improve the effectiveness of teachers and leaders, and ensure that students in high-need schools are being taught by effective teachers in schools led by effective principals. To help meet these goals, states and districts may choose how to spend funds to meet local needs, as long as they are improving teacher and principal effectiveness and ensuring the equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals. To measure, develop, and improve the effectiveness of their teachers, leaders, and preparation programs, states and districts will be required to put in place a few specific policies and systems, including:

  • Statewide definitions of "effective teacher," "effective principal," "highly effective teacher," and "highly effective principal," developed in collaboration with teachers, principals, and other stakeholders, that are based in significant part on student growth and also include other measures, such as classroom observations of practice. As states transition to using these measures of effectiveness, we will maintain the provisions of current law relating to "Highly Qualified Teachers," but with additional flexibility.

  • State-level data systems that link information on teacher and principal preparation programs to the job placement, student growth, and retention outcomes of their graduates.

  • District-level evaluation systems that (i) meaningfully differentiate teachers and principals by effectiveness across at least three performance levels; (ii) are consistent with their state's definitions of "effective" and "highly effective" teacher and principal; (iii) provide meaningful feedback to teachers and principals to improve their practice and inform professional development; and (iv) are developed in collaboration with teachers, principals, and other education stakeholders.

Developing Effective Teachers and Leaders. Both states and school districts will carry out strategies to develop effective teachers and leaders that meet their local needs.

States may use funds to recruit and develop effective teachers and principals, support the creation of effective educator career ladders, and improve teacher and principal certification and retention policies to better reflect a candidate's ability to improve outcomes for students. Recognizing the importance of principal leadership in supporting teachers, states will work to improve the effectiveness of principals, through activities such as strengthening principal preparation programs and providing training and support to principals of high-need schools. States will also be required to develop meaningful plans to ensure the equitable distribution of teachers and principals that receive at least an "effective" rating. If states are unsuccessful in improving the equitable distribution of these teachers and principals, they will be required to develop and implement more rigorous plans and additional strategies more likely to improve equity.

School districts may use funds to develop and implement fair and meaningful teacher and principal evaluation systems, working in collaboration with teachers, principals, and other stakeholders; to foster and provide collaboration and development opportunities in schools and build instructional teams of teachers, leaders, and other school staff, including paraprofessionals; to support educators in improving their instructional practice through effective, ongoing, job-embedded, professional development that is targeted to student and school needs; and to carry out other activities to improve the effectiveness of teachers, principals, and other school staff, and ensure the equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals. Funds spent on strategies such as professional development and class size reduction must be aligned with evidence of improvements in student learning.

Districts that have put in place the required evaluation systems may generally spend funds flexibly, except that a district that is not improving equity in the distribution of effective teachers and principals will be required to submit a new plan to the state under which funds will be spent solely on ensuring its evaluation system meets the requirements described above and on specific activities aimed at improving the equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals.

Measuring Success. We will require transparency around the key indicators of whether students and schools have effective teachers and principals and whether teachers have the professional supports they need. Both states and districts must publish report cards at least every two years that provide information on key indicators, such as teacher qualifications and teacher and principal designations of effectiveness; teachers and principals hired from high-performing pathways; teacher survey data on levels of support and working conditions in schools; the novice status of teachers and principals; teacher and principal attendance; and retention rates of teachers by performance level. States will also be required to report on the performance of teacher and principal preparation programs by their graduates' impact on student growth and other measures, job placement, and retention.

Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund

Our proposal will continue competitive grants for states and school districts that are willing to implement ambitious reforms to better identify, recruit, prepare, develop, retain, reward, and advance effective teachers, principals, and school leadership teams in high-need schools. Grantees must be able to differentiate among teachers and principals on the basis of their students' growth and other measures, and must use this information to differentiate, as applicable, credentialing, professional development, and retention and advancement decisions, and to reward highly effective teachers and principals in high-need schools. School districts must also put in place policies to help ensure that principals are able to select and build a strong team of teachers with a shared vision and that teachers are choosing to be part of a school team.

Grantees may use funds to reform compensation systems to provide differentiated compensation and career advancement opportunities to educators who are effective in increasing student academic achievement, who take on additional roles and responsibilities in their schools, and who teach in high-need schools, subjects, areas, and fields. Grantees may also use funds to staff high-need schools more effectively, such as through the implementation or use of earlier hiring timelines. States and districts will be encouraged to use these funds to take on additional innovative reforms, such as improving teacher salary schedules so as to eliminate incentives for teachers to obtain credentials that have been shown not to be linked with student performance. Additionally, states must describe the extent to which high-performing pathways are in place. In all cases, applicants will be required to provide evidence of stakeholder involvement in the development of their proposal.

Teacher and Leader Pathways

Our proposal will continue competitive grants to improve and strengthen the recruitment and preparation of effective teachers, principals, and other school leaders by nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, and school districts, through highquality preparation programs that prepare educators for high-need districts, schools, subjects, areas, and fields.

Teacher Pathways. To strengthen traditional and alternative pathways into teaching, our proposal includes competitive grants for the recruitment, preparation, placement, and induction of promising teacher candidates for high-need schools, subjects, areas, and fields. Programs must be designed to meet the specific teacher needs of a district or districts, and must either have a record of preparing effective teachers or commit to tracking and measuring the effectiveness of their graduates in the classroom.

In making grants, the Secretary will take into account whether programs will prepare teachers to teach to college- and career-ready standards; the extent to which programs are designed to meet the needs of high-need areas, including rural areas, or high-need fields, such as teaching English Learners, students with disabilities, or other students with diverse learning needs; and the extent to which programs provide streamlined opportunities for applicants who can demonstrate competency in specific knowledge or skills. Priority may be given to programs that work to recruit and prepare highperforming college graduates or non-traditional candidates, such as military veterans or midcareer professionals. The Secretary also will carry out a teacher recruitment campaign, working with states, districts, and outside organizations to recruit talented candidates into the teaching profession.

Transformational Leaders. To strengthen traditional and alternative pathways into school leadership, our proposal includes competitive grants for the recruitment, preparation, and support of effective principals and leadership teams to turn around persistently low-performing schools.

Grantees must either have a record of preparing effective leaders or commit to tracking and measuring the effectiveness of their graduates, as well as provide a substantial residency or field-based component and induction support for new principals and other leaders to succeed. Priority will be given to programs that commit to put in place conditions that increase the likelihood that their graduates and other principals will succeed in improving low-performing schools, such as providing autonomy over staffing, budget, instructional program, and schedule; and those with a record of preparing principals who improve student academic achievement and other outcomes at low-performing schools. Finally, the Secretary will make grants to recruit, prepare, place, and support the retention of effective state and district leaders, such as superintendents, chief academic officers, and human resource directors, who are able to lead transformational change in their states and districts.

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Last Modified: 05/27/2011