White House education initiative calls for good teachers at all schools - including poorest

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

The Obama administration said Monday it will require states to show how they will make sure that all children _ particularly those who are poor or minorities _ have high-quality teachers.

The White House said it’s another example of acting without Congress because lawmakers can’t move forward. In this case, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, Congress has not fixed the troubled No Child Left Behind law.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids around the country who are not getting the kind of teaching that they need _ not because there aren’t a whole lot of great potential teachers out there, but because we’re not doing enough to put a lot of our teachers in a position to succeed,” President Barack Obama said at the White House.

“Typically, the least experienced teachers, the ones with the least support, often end up in the poorest schools,” he said.

The administration will require states to submit plans by April 2015 and will spend $4.2 million to launch a new network to provide states and districts support to put the plans into action. It also will publish results to show where highly skilled teachers are working in high-need schools, and where these schools have inexperienced teachers or those teaching in situations they weren’t prepared to handle.

Duncan declined to say what would happen if a state refused to go along. “I’m optimistic the overwhelming majority of states want to do this and have the heart for this work,” he said. “The solutions have to be local.”

Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, the Republican who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said Duncan was taking the wrong approach.

“Every student should learn in a classroom led by an excellent teacher and to help make it happen we have to fix a broken law,” he said. “It has been almost a year since the House passed a bill to revamp the nation’s K-12 education law, yet the Senate has refused to act. To make matters worse, the administration continues to create more confusion and uncertainty through unilateral actions. If Secretary Duncan really wants to support students and teachers, he will work with Congress to enact lasting K-12 education reform.”

The education initiative requires no approval or input from Congress.

Obama has used executive orders and actions to delay enactment of some provisions of the Affordable Care Act, raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and expand gay rights. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, recently announced that he plans to sue Obama over what he perceives as presidential overreach of executive authority.

Deborah Veney Robinson, vice president for government affairs and communications at The Education Trust, a group that advocates closing achievement gaps for low-income and black, Latino and Native American students, called the Education Department’s plan encouraging.

“For too long, our tendency to assign the strongest teachers disproportionately to our most advantaged students has compromised the futures of millions of low-income students and students of color,” she said in a statement.

A provision in federal law since 2006 that bans this practice has mostly been ignored, she added.

The Education Trust said low-income students and students of color tend to be taught by teachers with less experience and knowledge about their subject matter than those who teach white, more affluent students.

At a later event, Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief School Officers, said states want to improve the quality of teachers at high-needs schools.

He said his group would work with civil rights and advocacy groups to look for solutions, including more transparency about education funding so that money can be found for incentives for teachers at high-need schools, and making sure there are ways teachers can move up in their careers if they continue to work with students with many needs.

The Council of Chief School Officers, representing the top education officials around the country, helped develop the Common Core standards in reading and math.

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