The federal government would invest billions in improving the nation’s teaching corps by offering professional development to teachers, recruiting new ones, and providing incentives to draw good teachers to the schools that need them the most, under the latest House proposal for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act.
The draft proposal also would keep intact most of the current NCLB law’s reporting requirements on whether teachers are “highly qualified” and add new requirements that states identify the districts and schools most in need of highly qualified teachers.
U.S. Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the panel’s senior Republican, released the “discussion draft” on Sept. 6, about a week after they unveiled a preliminary proposal to reauthorize the NCLB law’s core Title I program. (“Draft NCLB Bill Intensifies the Discussion,” Sept. 5, 2007.)
The additional draft provisions address a myriad of programs in the rest of the 5½-year-old law, including teacher quality and professional development, Reading First, services for English-language learners, and impact aid.
The latest draft would include several new efforts to attract new teachers into the profession, offer them competitive salaries, and give them incentives to work in schools with the lowest student achievement.
Rep. Miller first proposed the programs in a bill he introduced in May with the support of both major teachers’ unions and several other education groups. U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, introduced a companion bill in the Senate on the same day.
“My bill addresses this need by helping school districts to pay more competitive salaries and by offering upfront tuition assistance to talented undergraduates committed to a career in education, to established teachers working in fields like math and science, where the teacher shortage is most acute, and to retirees with math and science expertise who would like to join the ranks of our nation’s teachers,” Rep. Miller said in a statement when he introduced the bill, called the Teacher Excellence for All Children—or TEACH—Act.
Under the draft provisions released Sept. 6, large portions of the TEACH Act would be added to Title II of the NCLB law, which now focuses on teacher-quality issues.
The new section would offer bonuses of up to $12,500 for outstanding teachers who transfer to schools with high poverty and low achievement and stay there for four years. It would give similar bonuses of up to $15,000 for principals who move to such schools.
The bill also would supplement the salaries of so-called master teachers with up to $10,000 a year if they help new teachers transition into their new jobs. Such teachers would be eligible for another $4,000 a year in performance pay based on students’ test-score and classroom observations by other teachers and administrators.
Another section would create a pilot project on performance pay for teachers. The project would be based on the results of a study required under the law that examines a correlation between teachers’ certification and student performance.
“The TEACH Act creates common-sense incentives to attract qualified individuals to the teaching profession and to keep teachers in the classroom,” Reg Weaver, the president of the National Education Association, said in a statement in May when Rep. Miller and Sen. Kennedy introduced the bill, elements of which have now been incorporated into the proposed NCLB measure.
The new NCLB proposal also would keep current rules requiring all Title I schools to provide teachers deemed highly qualified, but it would add new requirements for states to report on the quality of their teaching corps.
The current law calls for states to ensure that children in high-poverty schools are not disproportionately taught by teachers who don’t meet the highly qualified standard or are inexperienced. States are required, for instance, to report on the proportion of classes in both high-poverty schools and low-poverty schools that are taught by highly qualified teachers.
The draft would require states for the first time to pinpoint districts with the most severe teacher needs, publicly reporting, for instance, the number of first-year teachers and average teacher turnover within each district. States would be further required to come up with a plan describing how Title II money would be used to address those problems. Local districts, too, would need to identify schools that are hard to staff.
Addressing the teacher pipeline for urban schools, the draft would provide grants for high-need districts to set up programs that certify teachers after a year of apprentice teaching and coursework in exchange for five years of teaching in those districts.
Reading First, ELLs
The draft also would reauthorize the Reading First program, but it would require the Education Department to change the way it reviews states’ plans under the $1 billion-a-year program. The department would be required to provide guidance to the committees that review state applications, explaining the criteria committee members should use.
Over the past year, the department’s inspector general issued several reports on the implementation of Reading First, saying in one that department officials set up review panels that favored specific particular teaching methodologies and may have violated a federal prohibition on federal officials’ imposing curricular decisions on states and districts. (“Scathing Report Casts Cloud Over ‘Reading First’,” Oct. 4, 2006.)
The draft stipulates that the Education Department would develop guidance to help federal employees comply with federal prohibitions against directing curriculum choices and provide technical assistance for the Reading First program that is “balanced in presenting eligible products or services and shall not in any way endorse or appear to endorse any particular product or service that might be purchased” by states or districts.
The draft also makes changes to the programs serving English-language learners. The proposal for Title I outlines changes to the ways ELL students are assessed under the law, but the new draft suggests changes to the programs under Title III.
The draft would require the Education Department to develop a method for identifying English-language learners across the nation that could be used to distribute funds to the states for ELL students. The addition would address recommendations contained in a report by the Government Accountability Office about problems in the accuracy of data sources used to give out funds for ELLs.
The December 2006 report by the watchdog arm of Congress pointed out problems with the two allowable sources for data—the U.S. Census Bureau and the states themselves—and recommended that the Education Department clarify instructions to the states on how to collect data on ELLs and also develop a method for determining if the data from either source were accurate.
The discussion draft contains a couple of new requirements for what states would have to include in their plans submitted to the Education Department concerning programs for English-language learners. States would need to describe how they would ensure that such children have “access to the full curriculum in a manner that is understandable to and appropriately addresses the linguistic needs of such children.” Also, states would have to describe how they would ensure that all teachers are fluent in English and any other language used for instruction.
The discussion draft gives a nod to bilingual education by spelling out that the development of “instructional programs that promote academic proficiency in more than one language” are authorized for funding.
Rep. Miller said he plans to bring an NCLB bill before the House Education and Labor Committee for consideration this month, with the hope of winning passage of such a bill from the House by the end of the year.
Assistant Editor Mary Ann Zehr and Staff Writer Alyson Klein contributed to this report.
A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2007 edition of Education Week