Our Politics K-12 reporters have the goods for you on the Education Department's proposal to allow states to waive portions of the No Child Left Behind Act in exchange for instituting certain reforms.
On the teacher-quality front, they must agree to institute "basic guidelines" for evaluations for measuring teacher and principal effectiveness, and to use the results of such systems for personnel decisions. Details beyond that are pretty sketchy at this point, such as just how specific the guidelines have to be and how closely districts will be expected to adhere to them.
We do know, however, that contrary to rumors, states will still have to abide by most of the "highly qualified" teacher rules.This shouldn't be too much of a burden for them, seeing that 97 percent of teachers already meet the definition.
Update, 6:15 pm: New details are coming in. We now know that states and districts will be expected to have at least three performance categories in their teacher evaluation systems, with student growth as one measure. (These details, by the way, are identical to the Education Department's reauthorization Blueprint.) States will have to adopt the guidelines this school year; districts will have two years to develop and pilot aligned evaluation systems.
The basic HQT rules will stand, but districts will be exempt from the restrictions on use of Title I and Title II funds outlined in the law if not all of their teachers are highly qualified. (Those were more or less the only teeth in the law regarding the HQT provisions and were never particularly exacting to begin with.)
Teacher evaluation reform has been a part of the administration's priorities from day one: witness the Race to the Top program, the economic-stimulus bill, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and the Blueprint.