Now that the Senate is getting close to consideration of a bill to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, groups are beginning to release their ideas on key aspects of the law, including teacher quality.
One recent effort? A letter from a group of civil rights and education redesign groups, including Democrats for Education Reform, the Education Trust, and the National Council of La Raza, which want to see new teacher-evaluations systems included in the renewal.
Some of their ideas include:
• A state-determined method for measuring teacher impact on student growth;
• A statewide model for how local education agencies will incorporate measures of student growth in subjects and grades that aren't tested;
• Four or more levels of teacher performance; and
• Multiple comprehensive classroom observations per year, both announced and unannounced.
The groups want states to get at least five years to put these systems in place. And they want the evaluations to be used to tailor professional development, including hiring and firing, staffing, licensure, tenure, compensation, teacher-assignment patterns, and dismissal.
The groups also want to see steps taken to make sure that good teachers are distributed across high-poverty schools. They want states to continue to report on the percentage of teachers who are beyond their first year of teaching, the percentage of courses taught by in-field secondary teachers, and the percentage of certified teachers. If states weren't able to narrow gaps between high- and low-poverty schools within two years, they'd have to use all of their teacher-quality funds to eliminate those inequities.
Meanwhile, Charles Barone, the director of federal legislation for DFER, one of the groups that signed on to the letter, has seen a draft of an ESEA reauthorization proposal that has been widely circulated in Washington.
And overall, he's not a fan of some of the proposals under discussion, particularly around the push to allow states to track continous growth without a target end date.
"I think [Sen. Tom] Harkin produced a bill that represents where the committee is. I don't think the committee is in a very good place," Barone said, referring to the Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate education committee. " 'Continuous improvement' is the education equivalent of embarking on a weight-loss program, putting your scale in storage, and walking around in sweatpants for three months."
In particular, Barone is concerned that, without clear achievement targets in place, poor and minority children will be swept under the rug.