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Teacher-Misconduct Tracking Plagued by Holes, Fragmentation: Report

Too often, teachers who are disciplined for misconduct wind up working in other schools, putting other children at risk. How? Simply by crossing state lines, some of these teachers have been able to get new jobs without their past histories coming to light.

That's the conclusion of a blockbuster USA Today report published last weekend. The national newspaper used open-records laws to obtain discipline records on tens of thousands of teachers, and certification information on millions of teachers. It cross-checked them from state to state, following up on teachers who appeared to have been disciplined and then hired in a different state.

As with so many other aspects of teacher quality, the responsibility for tracking misconduct cases has been exclusively a state one, the newspaper reports. There is no federal database or agency that currently tracks teacher-misconduct records, despite a push from some child advocates and lawmakers.

And although the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification maintains its own privately run database that states use to check on hires from other states, it's contingent on the states uploading accurate data in the first place—and they seem to have done a pretty sloppy job of that. About 9,000 names of teachers disciplined for misconduct were missing from the NASDTEC database, including 1,400 who permanently lost their licenses.

Meanwhile, states' own systems of background checks suffer from weaknesses. And 11 states leave it up to districts to run the checks, allowing for even more variation in how rigorously they're done. 

NASDTEC executive director Phillip Rogers said his group has ordered states to audit the data they submit to his group's clearinghouse so that missing names will be added to it.

Misconduct is exceptionally rare among the nation's more than 3 million teachers; fewer than 1 percent of all teachers have been disciplined for misconduct, USA Today said.

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