Education Department officials have announced that President Obama has approved 16 states’ plans to ensure equitable access to strong teachers. Whether by offering financial incentives to teachers who agree to work at struggling schools, focusing on developing stronger principals, or improving teacher-preparation programs, schools now have the green light, writes Emma Brown of The Washington Post.
Now the Education Department wants to see how effectively states and school districts will carry out their plans. The Department is going to focus on supporting and assisting states rather than on withholding funds or other punitive measures.
“We do have enforcement possibilities if it gets to that point,” said Ann Whalen, who serves as the assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education. “ We definitely see that as a last resort.”
The No Child Left Behind law has required that such plans be in place for years, but poor and minority children have continued to be taught by the least-effective and least-experienced teachers, unlike their more affluent peers. Last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked states to rehaul their plans and offered $4.2 million in technical assistance to do so. Of the 50 states which submitted rewritten plans, 34 of them are still under review.
The states with approved plans are: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Minnesota, New York, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. But Michael Petrilli, President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning think-tank, does not believe the equitable access plan will work.
“There is very little the federal government can do from Washington to fix these problems,” he said.
Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, says on the Education Department site that:
“We know that access to great teachers makes a big difference for all students, and even more so for students facing the challenges of concentrated poverty and racial isolation. I am encouraged to see that the Department of Education is moving forward on this important equity issue.”
In Missouri, writes The Huffington Post’s Rebecca Klein, the state’s neediest students often have teachers who are the least experienced. Almost 10% of educators in the poorest schools are in their first year of teaching. Seven percent of teachers do not have adequate certification or licensing. Missouri is one of the states that has been given approval.
Missouri is going to refine an “educator shortage predictor model” so that school officials can be aware of teacher shortages before they happen and can then have qualified educators available to work in low-income schools. The state also plans to recruit teachers who are diverse and monitor teacher preparation programs.
“I woke up this morning to a brand new day, a new phase of life. Up until now it’s almost been a year of planning and writing and visioning what you want to do,” said Paul Katnik, assistant commissioner for the Missouri Office of Educator Quality. “Implementation is 10 times more important than planning.”
The Excellent Educators for All initiative was launched last year. Now, Connecticut is providing grants to increase the number of black and Latino pre-college students who are interested in education careers become certified to teach and get them recruited and hired. Massachusetts has identified three major gaps to address: teacher effectiveness, experience, and preparation, writes Jim Levulis, reporting for WNPR.
“There are two components to preparation that we’re addressing through this plan,” Chester said. “One is our shortage areas. Areas where we’re not producing enough teachers – special education, STEM teachers, math and science as well as teachers who are prepared to work with English language learners.”
Whalen says New York will continue investing in teachers’ career arcs so that educators can have leadership opportunities within and outside their schools.