Thursday, December 4, 2008

Federal Funding for Teacher Quality Innovation?

This is a follow-up to my post of two weeks ago about the use of Title II, Part A funding under NCLB. In these tight economic times, it is inevitable that the focus will move from spending more money on education to spending existing dollars more wisely. Currently, most school districts are not using these federal dollars in particularly innovative, let alone effective or impactful ways.

An article by Stephen Sawchuk ('Grants in NCLB to Aid Teaching Under Scrutiny') was published in this week's edition of Education Week. In part, it discusses the findings of a recent Education Sector report on this topic.

For those of you who aren't Ed Week subscribers and may not be able to access the story, here is a peek at the story:

The Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund—better known as Title II, Part A of NCLB—is the federal government’s second-largest K-12 investment, after the Title I grants for disadvantaged students. Ninety-five percent of the funds flow to school districts, and they come with few strings attached.

Although the fund has promoted some promising local practices, Title II, in general, “is not especially aligned with leading-edge [teacher-quality] efforts, and it’s the federal government’s big entry in this sweepstakes,” said Andrew J. Rotherham, the co-director of Education Sector, a Washington think tank, and the report’s author.


In his paper, Mr. Rotherham stakes out one conceptual approach that Mr. Obama and legislators could consider when they revise the program as part of the reauthorization of the NCLB law: to transform Title II into a fund for seeding innovations to the education human-capital continuum, and to disallow a handful of currently authorized activities, including class-size reduction.


Nationally representative U.S. Department of Education survey data show that districts in 2007-08 spent 6 percent of their Title II funds on professional-growth initiatives—such as mentoring programs or incentives for teachers to pursue certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards—and 4 percent on recruitment, including performance-based pay and teacher loan-forgiveness programs.

More than three-quarters of districts’ Title II allocations subsidize professional development and smaller class sizes. In his paper, Mr. Rotherham deems those activities “low leverage” because they typically lack quality-control mechanisms and reinforce traditional human-capital structures, rather than altering them.

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