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Teacher Quality: The OTHER No Child Issue

Over at NCLB: Act II, my colleague David Hoff makes a great point about the new Century Foundation volume on reforming NCLB. With all the focus on accountability, there's not much discussion of the law's teacher-quality provisions, he writes. And they are important: NCLB was the first version of ESEA to set a minimum teacher-qualification standard for poor schools.

Here's a list of what will likely be the big teacher issues to be hammered out in the NCLB reauthorization.

1. The "Highly Qualified" Designation: Most teachers are now highly qualified. However, there was a brief controversy in 2006 when the Education Department tried to get states to close their alternate HQT pathways for veteran teachers (known as "HOUSSE") after discovering that states were letting teachers earn additional content-area endorsements using the process. Will a reauthorized bill phase out this process once and for all?

2. Equitable Distribution of Teachers: Few people noted that last year's draft bill made all states' teacher-quality funding contingent on whether states were making progress on their plans to equitably distribute teachers among schools. I haven't checked up on this issue in a while so I don't know whether any progress has been made on these plans. But with NCLB's focus on equity for poor students, I'm sure it will come up.

3. Performance Pay: A performance-pay program in the 2007 "discussion draft" created some ill will between the House Education and Labor Committee Chairman, George Miller, and the two teachers' unions. Will we see a second performance-pay smackdown in the future?

4. Title II: I'm always surprised that so little is written about how states spend the $3 billlion they receive annually through this NCLB program, which Education Secretary Margaret Spellings recently termed "the consummate local control pot of money" in an interview. Most of it supports professional development of varying quality and class-size reduction. The big bugaboo here: It isn't clear whether class size will be given its own funding stream (as it was pre-NCLB); maintained as an eligible use of funds in Title II; or excised from federal law altogether. You can bet the teachers' unions will fight to prevent the latter.

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