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A Microscope on Title II

What's the best way to make $3 billion disappear? Put it into a big wonky program, like the No Child Left Behind Act's Title II teacher-quality formula grant, that isn't a a high-profile issue for lawmakers.

The program authorizes nearly 30 activities for states and districts, including innovative practices such as performance pay or career ladders. But states and districts have mostly have put the money toward hiring teachers to reduce class sizes and funding professional development of varying quality.

Now, people are starting to ask what's happening with all this money and whether there might be a more effective use for it.

One of the tensions lawmakers will face in revising this program is whether to set a series of outcome indicators -- i.e., improvements in teacher-attrition rates -- to measure whether the funds are having any effect on local districts. Along these lines, the Alliance for Excellent Education has one set of recommendations here, and the Education Trust has another here. The Alliance recommends that districts use an index to set priorities for funding and measure progress toward teacher-quality improvements; Ed Trust would require more reporting on indicators like districts' percentages of novice teachers and attrition rates.

And let's not forget class sizes, a priority for the teachers' unions. Last year's draft NCLB bill never made it clear whether lawmakers would yank class size out of the program. It's a sleeper issue for now, but keep your eye on it.

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