The U.S. Department of Education is developing a 50-state strategy that may finally put some teeth into a key part of the No Child Left Behind Act that has been largely ignored for the past 12 years: the inequitable distribution of the nation’s best teachers.
Managing to bring more equity to the distribution of teachers is one of the more challenging tasks for education reformers.
First of all, there is the roadblock of the complexity of distribution of teachers even within a school: how are teachers distributed by grade, by subject, etc.? Beyond that, there is the basic fact that hiring is usually done on the local level, and usually by individual schools. This means that any effort by school districts will meet difficulties because individual schools will not want to cede authority over hiring. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Then there is the wrangling over teacher evaluations. Central to the idea of distributing quality teachers to those students most in need is the question of how to decide which teachers are the most effective. At this point, the primary means used to decide are the traditional methods of seniority, education, and level of certification, but as more complex methods of teacher evaluation become more common, these will need to be integrated into the system of teacher distribution. It is clear that the work on teacher evaluations is far from over, and even in those states where new methods of teacher evaluations have become somewhat settled, there still has not been enough time to reflect on the new results and use those to distribute teachers.
Another roadblock is that the U.S. Department of Education does not really know where to begin because assembling accurate data on teacher distribution is such a headache. It requires compliance from various school districts which use strikingly different means of collecting and assembling data.
Central to the federal strategy will be a mix of enforcement and bureaucratic levers to prod states into making sure that poor and minority students are not taught by ineffective and unqualified teachers at higher rates than their peers.
Among those levers, according to the department: investigations of districts and schools using the power of the department’s office for civil rights, or OCR; new state teacher-equity plans; and perhaps new rules for future NCLB waiver renewals.
What is clear is that the OCR faces a monumental task, but it is one that they take extremely seriously because it is part of the No Child Left Behind Law, which, until Congress decides otherwise, remains in effect.
For more information, please visit: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/02/19/21equity_ep.h33.html