Teacher Preparation

New Teacher-Grant Program Could Herald Federal Shift

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 29, 2011 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Several high-profile teacher-training and -professional-development groups that recently lost federal set-asides—from Teach For America to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards—will have an opportunity to recapture some of that funding under the terms of a newly unveiled $25 million federal competition. (“Programs Suffer Cuts in Funding,” March 9, 2011.)

Yet unanswered is how many other groups will even be eligible to apply under the terms of the tightly written competition, which prioritizes activities similar to those of the formerly financed groups, is open only to national nonprofit organizations, and requires applicants to cite research evidence of their effectiveness.

“It’s a carve-out program that rewards programs with records of success,” said David A. DeSchryver, an expert on federal education grants. “They clearly have certain programs in mind, and they are investing in these through competitive grants.”

Deemed the Supporting Effective Educator Development, or SEED grants, the initiative comes as the U.S. Department of Education’s first new competitive teacher-quality program since the Teacher Incentive Fund, designed to create merit-pay programs, debuted in 2006.

Lost Funding

Several teacher- and principal-training programs that lost set-asides in the fiscal 2011 budget could benefit from a new federal grant program. Their fiscal 2010 awards were:

Teach For America:
$18 million

New Leaders for New Schools:
$5 million

Advanced Credentialing (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards):
$10.6 million

National Writing Project:
$25.6 million

SOURCE: Education Week

Established under the terms of a funding measure Congress passed in April, the SEED competition is eligible to national nonprofit organizations active in multiple states, a stipulation that would put many universities out of the running.

Applicants must meet one of three absolute priorities, which are similar to activities carried out by programs that lost their earmarks during the fiscal 2011 budget cycle. They include selective teacher and principal training for educators in high-need communities, English/language arts professional development with a focus on writing, and advanced credentialing or certification.

Plans to Apply

All applicants must cite “moderate evidence” of their effectiveness, which means they must have been studied using at least one experimental or quasi-experimental methodology allowing for some limited cause-and-effect conclusions. Applicants can score extra points for having stronger research designs, such as meeting the standards of the federal What Works Clearinghouse, or those whose findings permit greater generalizability.

Mr. DeSchryver, now a vice president for education policy at White Board Advisors, a Washington-based consultancy, likened the competition to the federal Investing in Innovation program. Created by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, i3 also required research evidence.

“Grants are moving closer toward investments with a likelihood of success,” he said. “Given the increasing scarcity of federal dollars, that is not a surprise.”

Education Department officials said the SEED notice was not written with the formerly earmarked programs in mind. All applications will be scored by outside peer reviewers, they noted.

“Those organizations may apply, but it’s an open competition,” said Soumya Sathya, a program officer in the office of innovation and improvement’s teacher-quality division. “We’re just hoping to see some strong, innovative, evidence-based approaches to teacher training.”

The competition was welcomed by several of the organizations that formerly received set-asides.

Cuts to site awards and personnel have allowed the National Writing Project to continue supporting its nearly 200 sites. Its director, Sharon J. Washington, praised the competition for recognizing writing professional development.

“I feel it’s a sign of support and a recognition of the value of the National Writing Project and the work that’s happening in schools all around the nation from amazing teachers who are really making a difference on student achievement in writing,” Ms. Washington said.

Even if successful in the competition, she added, her organization still faces challenging questions: “How do we go forward as a national network if our funding structure has totally changed? What does this mean for value? What is the role of the national office if we’re not able to give as large site grants?”

National-board officials said they’ll continue to support initiatives to help teams of teachers go through the board-certification process together, or to use parts of the assessment as the basis of school-based professional development.

“We’ve found that seems to have the most impact,” said Seth P. Gerson, the NBPTS’ government-relations director. “It’s those kinds of efforts we’re looking to really expand, as opposed to individual teachers working in silos.”

Several of the organizations’ activities have been extensively studied. TFA was a top winner in the i3 competition, while a 2008 National Research Panel report linked national-board certification to student achievement. The National Writing Project, in the meantime, is currently wrapping up a random-assignment study.

A Harbinger?

The SEED competition also could mark the beginning of a slow but steady shift from formula teacher-quality funding to competitions.

Appropriators reserved the money for the SEED competition by slicing off 1 percent of the Improving Teacher Quality State Grants program, or Title II-A of the No Child Left Behind Act. The $2.5 million funding stream goes to every state and nearly all districts.

The SEED set-aside is poised to grow considerably in fiscal 2012. Under the terms of a measure recently approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, the SEED set-aside would increase to 5 percent of the Title II-A grant, or approximately $125 million.

A bipartisan group of more than 25 senators and 50 representatives has endorsed the movement, as has Chiefs for Change, a coalition of 10 state superintendents who support more rigorous teacher training and evaluation.

For several years running, the Obama administration has advocated moving some formula-grant teacher-quality funding into competitions. And the idea has appealed to Republican lawmakers as well: A teacher-quality proposal introduced by three GOP senators would create a program within Title II for nonprofits to carry out teacher- and principal-preparation programs.

Though supportive of better professional development, groups including the National Education Association have opposed the conversion of formula funds into competitive grants.

Applications for SEED are due Nov. 7, and awards are expected in January.

A version of this article appeared in the October 05, 2011 edition of Education Week as Teacher-Training Grant Program Could Mark Shift in Federal Policy

Events

Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Privacy & Security Webinar
Navigating Modern Data Protection & Privacy in Education
Explore the modern landscape of data loss prevention in education and learn actionable strategies to protect sensitive data.
Content provided by  Symantec & Carahsoft

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teacher Preparation Teachers' Unions Are Starting Teacher-Prep Programs. Here's What to Know
The Washington Education Association is pioneering a teacher residency for special education. Other unions are noticing.
10 min read
Patrice Madrid, left, leads a Functional Core Program for 3rd through 5th graders as part of a teacher residency program under the guidance of staff teacher Shannon Winthrow, right, at Star Lake Elementary in Kent, Wash., on May 7, 2024.
Patrice Madrid, left, leads a special education classroom for 3rd through 5th graders as part of the Washington Education Association's teacher residency program under the guidance of staff teacher Shannon Withrow, right, at Star Lake Elementary in Kent, Wash., on May 7, 2024.
Meron Menghistab for Education Week
Teacher Preparation These Preparation Programs Are Creating a 'Tutor to Teacher' Pipeline
A new pipeline offering an authentic glimpse of the profession is growing, despite patchy financial cover.
8 min read
Photograph of an adult Black woman helping a female student with an assignment.
iStock/Getty
Teacher Preparation Opinion 3 Ways to Give Preservice Teachers Meaningful Classroom Experiences
A veteran teacher offers guidance on how to support teacher-candidates.
Allison Kilgore Thompson
3 min read
A novice teacher shadow is cast across an empty classroom.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week + DigitalVision vectors + Getty Images
Teacher Preparation AI Is Coming to Teacher Prep. Here's What That Looks Like
One preparation program is banking on AI to transform new teacher training.
4 min read
Collage illustration of computer display and classroom image.
F. Sheehan for Education Week / Getty