by David Safier
The recently enacted economic-stimulus bill requires every state to take steps to improve teacher effectiveness, as well as to tackle one of the most pervasive problems in K-12 education: inequities in access to top teaching talent for poor and minority children.
In those two provisions, which governors must address to get their cuts of $53.6 billion in state fiscal-stabilization aid, some experts see glimpses into the future of federal teacher-quality policy.
“We have a lot of evidence that this administration is very interested in making effective teaching a priority,” said Sabrina W.M. Laine, the director of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality at Learning Point Associates, a federally financed technical-assistance center in Naperville, Ill. “The stimulus bill is wide open for interpretation, but it provides the proverbial shot in the arm for equitable distribution and for discussions to move a reauthorization bill [on education] forward.”
It's a well known problem that a disproportionate number of the best, most experienced teachers are at schools with affluent students. It's another one of those ways the educational playing field is slanted in favor of the well heeled.
The stimulus measure’s provision on equitable distribution of teachers is identical to language in the federal No Child Left Behind Act that requires states to put plans in place to ensure that poor and minority students aren’t taught disproportionately by out-of-field, inexperienced, or unqualified teachers. The NCLB law also charges states with monitoring districts’ progress on instituting strategies to address those inequities.
Talking is one thing. Action is another. And action on something like this is tough, and potentially costly. We'll see what happens.