The 2016 ESEA Proposed Budget Has a Vision of Teaching
When I first read this sentence in the proposed 2016 budget for the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the immediate thought that came to my mind was, "It's about time!" Teachers and the work they do are paramount to student achievement especially in Title I schools. So it would makes sense for the law regarding funding in these schools to address teaching. But at the same time, that old time proverb regarding wishes began swirling around in the back of my mind, "Be careful what you wish for young girl, for you may surely get it."
As I continued reading more on the 2016 budget proposal you see that the federal government is focusing on teachers more than ever before. And what is most exciting is that the focus on teachers is not just about working conditions (i.e. class sizes, curriculum, etc.) but also about training, attracting, and retaining teachers. First, there is the "Teach for Tomorrow" proposal. This proposal would give 5 billion dollars over the next five years to programs regarding teacher recruitment, preparation, induction, and advancement of highly effective teachers. Then, there is the "Teachers and Principals Pathways" proposal to build on partnerships with universities and non-profits to create and expand pathways in teaching (check out my E4E policy team paper on career pathways and the great work at Center for Teaching Quality). Another proposal, titled "Excellent Educator Grants", looks at how teachers and principals are supported and evaluated (and I also assume rewarded per its title). The last proposed budget item that would directly impact teachers is the "Education Technology" state grants, which focuses on teachers using technology to enhance their instruction.
So back to the proverb regarding wishes, "Be careful what you wish for young girl, for you may surely get it." I think for this budget to be effective in elevating the education of our nation's poorest children we have a lot of conversations that need to happen in lots of states. For those of who you read my last blog, you know that in my district you cannot receive an evaluation where the final summative rating is Highly Effective. If we are talking about "highly effective teachers" on a national scale, don't we need some national guidelines for states to give teachers this ranking?
Standardized test scores can only be used in grades and subjects that take those assessments, so what other data would be used for music teachers, art teachers, vocational ed. teachers, kindergarten and others? I brought up highly effective teachers first because most of the proposals in the draft budget regarding teachers hinges around recognizing this group. So my hesitancy comes not from the vision that the proposed ESEA budget inspires but the time it will take to come to consensus over it's foundational underpinning of a "highly effective" teacher and the students who lose out because the adults cannot or will not come to consensus over this definition. That doesn't mean we should abandon the conversation even though it may be very long and difficult.
To my colleagues at the California Teacher's Association (CTA) I, and many others, look to you to support us in shaping this very small yet monumental detail.