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Barone v. California

Over at Swift & Change Able, Charlie Barone takes on California's focus (or lack thereof ) on teacher-quality initiatives, drawing on the Center on Education Policy's reports on school restructuring and the Renee v.Spellings lawsuit on the "highly qualified" teacher definition.

The state has long tussled with federal legislators on teacher quality. Its 1996 class-size program caused big hiring problems for poorer districts, reportedly angering Congressman George Miller, D-Calif., who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee. The state's initial definition of highly qualified was deemed inappropriate by the Education Department. More recently, California districts have been accused of taking underqualified teachers and enrolling them in alternative-route programs so as to call them highly qualified. (Teachers not yet certified who are teaching through alternative routes can be considered HQT for up to three years.)

I went back through the Title II program, which is the funding stream that disburses most federal teacher-quality dollars to districts, to see if there's anything that would give the state or the feds more leverage over spending. It turns out that if districts don't meet their annual HQT objectives—which at this point should be 100 percent for all districts— for two years and fail to make AYP for three years, then districts are supposed to enter into agreements with the state on how to institute professional development to help them meet those targets.(Districts normally can use Title II for almost any teacher-related purpose.)

Quite a few states, California included, aren't targeting their funding in this manner, according to these monitoring reports on the Education Department's Web site.

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