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Here's How States Are Using Title II Funds to Strengthen the Teaching Profession

ESSA_StateMap-blog-Getty-and-Education-Week.jpgUnder the Every Student Succeeds Act, states have an opportunity to rethink, strengthen, and modernize every facet of the teaching professon—as long as there's still federal funding available.

In a new report, the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank based in Washington, reviewed each state's ESSA plan to see what will be funded through Title II, Part A—money designated for recruiting, preparing, and supporting teachers. There are some promising initiatives, the report says.

But these initiatives could be at risk as Congress deliberates on a final 2018 budget deal, which could come as early as this week. President Donald Trump's budget proposal and the House funding bill eliminated the $2 billion Title II program, while the Senate appropriations bill preserved it. Over at Politics K-12, Andrew Ujifusa wrote that onlookers are waiting to see how those disparities will be resolved and whether lawmakers will meet halfway, which could represent a 50 percent cut to the Title II program.

That could drastically affect states' ability to get this work done. Still, here are a few of the initiatives CAP highlighted as worth paying attention to:

1. Recruiting More Diverse Educators

Several states are working to more intentionally recruit high-achieving people of color into the overwhelmingly white teaching profession. 

For example, Mississippi's ESSA plan includes a goal of increasing the number of nonwhite teachers in "critical shortage school districts" by 25 percent (meaning 67 percent of teachers would be people of color, which would better reflect the student population). To do this work, the state department of education is convening a grow-your-own task force this fall to develop a framework for districts to build a teacher workforce from paraprofessionals, high school students, and other members of the community. 

See Also: Latino Male Teachers: Building the Pipeline

2. Better Preparing and Supporting New Teachers

Some states are focusing efforts on making sure that teacher-preparation programs are producing teachers who are well-equipped to lead a classroom, and that schools are supporting and mentoring teachers through their first few years.

Louisiana has been administering grant funds to school systems so they can partner with teacher-prep programs to better support aspiring teachers. By July, all teacher-prep programs in the state will include a yearlong residency, where teacher candidates work with a mentor teacher and with a competency-based curriculum. Some of the state's Title II funds will support stipends and training for mentor teachers.

See Also: Universities Revamping Teacher Prep to Provide More Hands-On Training

3. Making Teacher Licensure and Certification More Useful 

Too often, licensure tests are not meaningful measures of teaching abilities, but rather "bureaucratic hurdles," the report said, adding that states could incorporate the licensure and certification process into their larger goals of a more modernized teaching profession. 

For example, Education Week recently reported that in Georgia, teachers need individualized professional-learning goals and will have to participate in professional learning communities to renew their licenses—a shift away from credit-hour requirements. The CAP report noted that Georgia's certification structure has four tiers, so expert teachers can receive "lead professional" licenses and have opportunities to pursue mentoring and coaching roles. Still, CAP noted that the state's ESSA plan does not tie these roles to compensation structures, so the mentor teachers are not necessarily being paid extra for those roles. CAP recommended policymakers further align these systems so that mentor teachers are incentivized and encouraged to stay in the profession. 

See Also: Beyond Red Tape: Making Teacher Recertification Meaningful (Special Report)

4. Improving Teacher Pay and Loan Forgiveness Programs

A key part of the teacher pipeline is compensation and other financial incentives, the report said. 

New Mexico's ESSA plan includes an initiative to implement a pay-for-performance pilot program, which will reward educators for being named effective and for teaching in hard-to-staff subjects and schools. 

See Also: A Look at How Teachers Are Coping With Their Student Loan Debt

5. Leveraging Data 

ESSA encourages states and school districts to use data to make better hiring decisions, monitor students' equitable access to effective teachers, assess teacher-prep programs, and provide meaningful professional development, the report says.

The District of Columbia, for example, has launched the D.C. Staffing Data Collaborative, which is a partnership between a third-party expert and more than 90 percent of public schools in the city, to inform school staffing trends and make better hiring decisions. The collaborative also links teacher-prep programs to outcomes like how many teachers go teach in high-needs schools, how many teachers of color the program has produced, and the effectiveness of the graduates. 

See Also: ESSA Paves Way for Deeper Access to Wealth of K-12 Data

6. Improving the Whole Teacher Pipeline

While most states focused on specific parts of the pipeline in their ESSA plans, CAP applauded the states that had a "more holistic theory of change."  

For example, Pennsylvania's ESSA plan spans the entire teacher career continuum, from recruitment to teacher leadership. The state department of education will use Title II, Part A funds to support grant programs aimed at school districts and teacher-preparation programs—one seeks to improve teachers' ability to serve low-income and minority students and the other dedicates funding for high-quality clinical experiences, particularly in high-needs areas. The state department is also working on initiatives to recruit high school students and paraprofessionals into the profession, to improve mentoring and induction, and to improve the diversity of the workforce. 

See Also: Here Are Six Strategies for States to Build Stronger Teacher Pipelines

CAP also released an interactive map that shows what initiatives states across the country are working on to elevate the teaching profession. 

The report concludes that Title II, Part A funding is critical to build strong teacher pipelines. State chiefs are worried about the possibility of losing this money—my colleague Alyson Klein broke down what a substantial cut to Title II would mean for schools

While the CAP report focuses mainly on bright spots in states' ESSA plans, another report by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that most states are not planning to do enough to prevent low-income students and students of color from being disproportionately taught by ineffective or inexperienced teachers. 

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