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Understanding the Plan to Improve Teacher Quality

Janelle Cox

 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 1.6 million teachers will be needed to replace the ones who will be retiring over the next ten years.

To ensure our nation’s students’ receive the education they deserve, the Obama administration would like to ensure better-quality teaching. The plan to accomplish this goal is to create new regulations on the colleges that educate teachers.

This plan isn’t anything new. In 2012, the Education Department tried to write a new regulation, but representatives from Teach for America, teachers’ colleges and teachers’ unions had a hard time agreeing on what a quality teaching program should look like. They also clashed on teachers being evaluated based on their students’ test scores. Since they couldn’t come to an agreement, the Department of Education will now write a new regulation on its own and submit it to the White House for approval.

The Plan

The Obama Administration’s plan is to focus on three main areas: Institutional reporting and state ability, reform financing of students preparing to become teachers, and targeting institutions that prepare teachers from diverse backgrounds. Let’s take a deeper look into each component of the plan.

1. Reporting and State Accountability

Existing measures of reporting and accountability requirements have not led to meaningful change. The goal now is to develop better regulation and reduce input-based reporting elements by replacing them with three specific outcome-based measures. These measures are:

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  • Student growth taught by school graduates – States would report learning outcomes of students taught by graduates of each teaching program.
  • Job placement and retention rates – States would report if graduates that are hired stay in positions (especially those in shortage areas) for multiple years.
  • Surveys of graduates and their principles – States would survey and report if graduates and their principals thought the teaching program provided them with the skills needed to be successful in the classroom.

2. Presidential Teaching Fellows Fund

The aim is to send Presidential Teaching Fellows funds to states that are ensuring high standards for teacher preparation and those with financial need. States would have to confirm that teacher certification is determined by teacher performance. The majority of the funds would go towards scholarships. Final-year teachers from a top-tier school could receive a $10,000 scholarship and commit to teach for three years in a high-need school. The Presidential Teaching Fellows program is meant to provide graduating students with an incentive, and ensures that the funds support individuals who enter the profession with the skills needed to be a successful teacher in a high-need subject and/or school.

3. Minority Serving Institutions (MSI)

Minority-serving institutions prepare more than half of all minority teachers. Research has shown that students benefit from teachers from whom they can identify with. However, such teachers are underrepresented in the teaching field. That is why the administration is requesting that $40 million should be spent to upgrade and expand the MSI teacher education program.

In Layman’s Terms

Put simply, the Obama Administration wants states to focus on how teachers perform in the classroom. They want states to input teacher information into a national database. This information includes the very-controversial teacher evaluations based on students’ standardized tests scores, teacher and alumni surveys, certification and license exam scores and job placement rates. This database would be used to rate teacher preparation programs, and federal financial aid would only be given to future teachers who attended a top-tier school.

Recently, we have seen the Obama Administration push for states to use teacher evaluations (which are tied to students’ scores on standardized tests) to help them make decisions on hiring, firing and closing schools. This controversial move has had a lot of people in an uproar. We will soon see what the future holds for our teachers in our education system.

I will leave you with the words of Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association. "We need to take the lead in recruiting and training teacher candidates. Let's start by giving them the best preparation anyone could imagine on the front end, before they ever set foot in a classroom. Students need and deserve our best efforts and our best educators …”

What do you think of the Obama Administration’s plan to improve teacher quality? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. We would love to hear what you have to say.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators