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CAP Releases Recommendations for Teacher-Effectiveness Policies

This morning, the Center for American Progress' Robin Chait releases a paper detailing the organization's vision for moving the federal teacher-quality agenda forward. Check it out here. Her basic idea is to use federal policy to help states create a teacher-effectiveness "framework."

This would work by 1) providing funds to help states improve their data and testing infrastructure; 2) establishing state grants to increase the supply of teachers through enhanced alternative-certification programs; and 3) creating a new competitive district and state grant program, somewhat like the Teacher Incentive Fund, for states and districts to experiment with tenure reforms, differential pay and responsibilities for teachers, and incentives to move effective teachers to high-needs schools.

As a sweetner to tackle some of the politically tricky issues latent in setting up a teacher-effectiveness framework, states and districts that agreed to participate might also be given relief from some of the No Child Left Behind requirements, she suggests.

Chait also proposes an intriguing idea for states to set up a second pathway to teacher certification based on demonstration of teaching effectiveness, rather than passing a test or completing a degree.

The paper comes with a handy chart about the major proposals for federal teacher-effectiveness policies, including those from the Aspen Commission on No Child Left Behind and last year's House NCLB discussion draft.

Most of the proposals are likely to upset the teachers' unions, and if all the drama surrounding efforts to include performance-pay in federal legislation in 2007 is an indication, these new incentive grants will be difficult to get into federal legislation. Still, with John Podesta at the helm of CAP, you can bet that they will float their way up to Obama's ears.

Chait also hits upon an important subtext in district-level teacher-quality reform efforts, such as those in the District of Columbia's contract dispute. There appears to be a fear among teachers that a focus on teacher-effectiveness metrics will preclude ongoing professional development to help them improve. That shouldn't be the case, she argues:

"Very few rigorous, large-scale evaluations of professional-development programs are available to inform decisions about how the programs should be designed. This dearth of evidence about how to design effective professional-development programs suggests that while using data for professional development is important, it cannot be a substitute for using data to inform decisions about retaining effective teachers and discontinuing ineffective ones. We need to pursue both approaches and use them in combination, not just employ one or the other."

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