Increasing the Ranks

By Stephen Sawchuk — August 11, 2008 1 min read
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Among the new teacher provisions in the reauthorized Higher Education Act are “teacher development” requirements for programs that prepare teachers. Now, these programs are to set annual goals for increasing the number of teachers in shortage subjects and fields, such as math, science, technology, English-language learners, and students with disabilities.

Progress toward the goals gets reported annually by the states.

I’m not sure how these will affect schools of education. I did hear from one party that programs, and sometimes states, tend to allocate a number of teaching “slots” based on specialization area. A number of them may need to reorient how that’s done, probably at some cost. (Perhaps that’s the point of these new provisions.) But I’m not well versed enough in these types of operational details to comment. Anyone out there have an idea of how they’ll play out on the ground?

These provisions coincide with what appears to be an increased federal emphasis on grooming more teachers in shortage subjects/fields:

1) Last year’s budget-reconciliation measure created the TEACH grants, which would subsidize costs for prospective teachers who agree to teach in shortage subjects in high-need schools for four years.

2) The new HEA contains an Adjunct Teacher Corps to bring professionals to teach math and science part time in high school. President Bush proposed this a number of years running, and it never aroused much interest. All of a sudden—and under Democrats, no less—there’s a program authorization.

3) HEA also promotes Teach For America, a long-standing source for some districts for teachers of shortage subjects.

There is a general sense of relief that the teacher-development requirements don’t contain penalties, if the programs don’t meet their annual goals. And the requirements offer leeway for states and education programs to determine which fields are most in demand of new teachers and come up with plans to address those shortages.

Sharon P. Robinson, the president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, told me her organization viewed the goals as “doable,” not merely “aspirational.” Sounds to me like she might have been comparing them with teacher-quality goals in another behemoth education law.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.