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Class Size Funding in Crosshairs in Republican ESEA Bill

As usual, ace Politics K-12 reporter Alyson Klein does a great job outlining the contours of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act proposals recently put out by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline. And as usual, I will follow in her footsteps to offer analysis of the bill's teacher-quality provisions, which would make some big changes to provisions to the current No Child Left Behind. Here we go!

Teacher Evaluation

The bill would require school districts to put new teacher-evaluation systems into place (or to adopt a statewide model), and would give parents the "right to know" about evaluation results for their child's teachers.

This is a bit of a surprise, because it arguably expands federal teacher quality oversight, something that is certainly not in vogue among Republicans these days. Kline's counterpart in the Senate, Lamar Alexander, pushed (with help from the teachers' unions) to make teacher evaluation an allowable use of district funds, but not a requirement, in the bill that passed out of the Senate education committee late last year.

"Highly Qualified Teachers"

These ESEA requirements are gone from the draft.

Teacher-Quality Funding

Sleeper story alert! The bill makes some major changes to how federal teacher-quality funds are allocated. First, it does away with the "hold harmless" in the Title II state teacher quality formula grant, just as the Senate's ESEA bill does; and furthermore, it would base each state's allocation on a 50-50 split of population size and child-poverty level, rather than the current 35-65 split. This stands to have a dramatic impact on state-level allocations, and stands to benefit states that have grown in population.

Secondly, the bill would limit to 10 percent the portion of each district's Title II allocation that could be spent on class size reduction. The teachers' unions, it's safe to say, are going to hate this limitation. (Currently, districts on average spend about 38 percent of their Title II allocations on class-size reductions.)

Third, the bill would reserve 18 percent of the Title II pot to create a second program, under which states would competitively award funds to districts for professional development, differentiated-pay plans, expansion of alternative certification routes, mentoring, teacher-residency programs, and other activities. This program would effectively take the place of existing competitive teacher programs, including the Teacher Quality Partnership program in the Higher Education Act.

Other Changes

The bill would transfer Troops-to-Teachers to the Department of Defense and make alternations to the eligibility criteria.

The bill requires districts to address "disparities in the rates of low-income and minority students" taught by ineffective teachers. (Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader for the catch!)

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