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U.S. Department of Education Approves More State Teacher-Distribution Plans

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it has given 17 additional states the greenlight on plans to bolster teacher quality and make sure that low-income kids get their fair share of effective teachers.

The states are: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.  

That's in addition to the 16 states approved last month. (That would leave another seventeen states still waiting.)

The states' plans detail a range of steps to bolster teacher quality, including improving teacher preparation. And four of the states, plus the District of Columbia, are rewarding teachers who work in hard-to-staff or high need schools with bonuses, or career advancement opportunities.

Some big caveats: It's still really unclear to me exactly how the administration is going to make sure states follow through on these plans, which were initially supposed to be tied to renewal of waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act, but now are not. The enforcement question is one that has plagued similar plans the department has required in the past. (The administration notes that states have committed to publicly report their progress. But the next round of data on teacher equity is not expected to be be released until late next fall, around the time Obama will be leaving office.)

It's also tough to tell what changes states made to their plans to get the "approved" stamp.

What's more, the plans generally address "highly qualified" teacher requirements, which generally look at teachers' professional backgrounds and education, while states are generally moving toward "teacher effectiveness," which considers whether teachers are able to move the needle on student test scores. (Some states, including New Mexico, have moved to define "highly qualified" using "effectiveness," however.) 

And states often have limited control over teacher placement (which is usually a district responsibility). In fact, Montana pointed this out in its initial application. (And the Treasure State hasn't been approved yet.)

Experts who reviewed multiple draft plans earlier this year found them to be a mixed bag. Some states offered strong and creative proposals, according to the reviewers, while others mostly repacked ideas already underway. More in this story

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