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States Forge Ahead With ESSA Spending Plans

By Brenda Iasevoli — March 24, 2017 3 min read
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Many states plan to use funding from the Every Student Succeeds Act to up their teacher-training game, even though Title II grants to pay for this training are targeted for elimination in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.

Education First advises states on how to improve schools, teaching, and student learning. The for-profit group is helping some states to develop their Title II-A spending plans, and it just released a report highlighting the proposals of 28 states.

“Title II-A has new flexibility under ESSA and we wanted to share innovations from draft state ESSA plans to help states learn from each other’s school leadership, teacher leadership, and teacher preparation work,” said John Luczak of Education First. That “flexibility” refers to new authorization for states to use their teacher-quality funds to set up residency-based teacher-prep programs and teacher-leader incentive programs. Read more about shifts in Title II funding here.

Developing Teacher Leadership in Iowa

Sixteen states, according to the report, will either develop or continue teacher leadership efforts. Iowa, for one, will continue its $150 million-per-year Teacher Leadership Compensation system, which provides effective teachers the opportunity to earn higher pay for helping to train their colleagues. Experienced teachers might mentor new teachers or become instructional coaches who work with all teachers in a school on delivering quality instruction.

Becky Slater, the education program consultant for the Iowa department of education, points out how the role of instructional coach allows an experienced teacher to assume leadership, which is good for everyone. “This is a way for us to individualize professional learning,” she said. “The needs of career teachers are different from newer teachers, and now they have these instructional coaches who can meet them where they are and help them to continue to improve as well.”

Depending on the district, leadership may take different forms. Some teachers assume full-time duties as instructional coaches. Others teach part-time, which leaves them free to develop PD or teach model lessons. Still others teach full-time and get extra pay to lead after-school teacher training.

Ryan Wise, the director of the Iowa department of education, said the program is modeled on tried-and-true professional development in places like Singapore. “We know from looking at top education systems that professional learning has to be job-embedded and ongoing,” he said.

For more information on the program’s goals and funding, which Wise said is not entirely dependent on Title II funds, click here. And here is a link to an evaluation of the compensation program by the American Institutes for Research.

Training Teachers in Louisiana and Tennessee

In Louisiana, beginning in July 2018, all teacher candidates will be required to complete a yearlong teacher residency under the tutelage of an experienced mentor before qualifying for a license. Title II funds will be used to train teacher mentors at a cost of $100,000 a year. Mentors will receive a certificate along with a $1,000 yearly stipend.

The state estimates it will need 2,500 mentors and will begin by training 500 of them next school year.

“We know that better-prepared teachers stay in the profession longer,” said Hannah Dietsch, the assistant superintendent for talent at the Louisiana department of education. “Mentors are central to this role and the quality of their training will determine our success.”

Louisiana is not alone in expanding residencies for aspiring teachers. Seven other states—Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Vermont— and the District of Columbia aim to explore or expand teacher residencies. Tennessee plans to use its Title II funds to create teacher residencies in high-need areas across the state, through a competitive grant process.

“This is the first time we’re using Title II funds to support the development side of training, before a teacher or principal is in their position,” said Candice McQueen, Tennessee’s commissioner of education. “We’re making a strong connection between teaching well and what happens in higher education and in that teacher pipeline.”

The state is prioritizing residencies for areas that have the most high-needs schools. Budding teachers will train in schools similar to the ones where they will likely end up in full-time jobs. “Often we’ve seen that teachers trained in residencies go into the classroom performing at the level of a second-year teacher,” said Amy Wooten, the executive director of educator licensure and preparation at the Tennessee department of education. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure the students with the greatest needs have the advantage of teachers with the best preparation.”

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