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Federal Teacher-Quality Funds Spread Too Thinly, Brief Argues

What to do about Title II?

After Title I, this federal program, better known as the state teacher-quality grants, is the second biggest pot of federal K-12 education cash, totalling some $2.5 billion annually. It's spent mostly on class-size reductions and professional development of varying quality; nearly everyone agrees that this part hasn't had the desired effect. (Way back in 2008, I wrote about how most states don't do much to audit district spending of these federal funds.)

The latest addition to this debate comes via the Education Policy Center at the American Institutes for Research. In a new brief, the group argues that the problem is largely with the structure of the fund. With its focus on remediating individual teachers and on a laundry list of allowable activities, it's not oriented toward creating better systems for improving teachers. Consider, the brief says, that when you do the math, each teacher received an average of only about $251 worth of Title II-funded professional development in 2013-14.

Instead, the report suggests that the statute should be focused on developing better systems for professional learning—including venues for educators to share their data and stories; the monitoring, evaluation, and improvement of those activities; stipends for coordinators who monitor professional development activities;and to help solve logistical challenges like scheduling. It gives examples of a few districts, like Lexington, Mass., and Garden Grove, Calif., that have apparently moved in this direction.(I wrote about the Lexington district's efforts a few years back.)

It's unclear whether there's much of an appetite for these changes—this is a Congress, after all, that (on the Republican side at least), wants to give more flexibility rather than less when it comes to their federal education spending. Still, this is more food for thought on a complicated funding source.

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