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Friday, November 26, 2010

Elementary and Secondary School Teachers: Policy Context, Federal Programs, and ESEA Reauthorization Issues

Jeffrey J. Kuenzi
Specialist in Education Policy

Policymaking at the federal level reflects a growing awareness that improving educational outcomes depends greatly upon increasing the quality of classroom instruction. In establishing the student performance standards and accountability provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), legislators recognized that the success of these reforms rests largely on improving teachers’ knowledge and skills. Thus, in enacting NCLB, Congress amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to establish a requirement that all teachers be highly qualified and authorized the Title II, Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund to assist schools’ efforts to meet this new requirement.

The NCLB highly qualified teacher requirement has now been the cornerstone of federal teacher policy for nearly a decade. In that time, the requirement has come to be seen by many as a minimum standard for entry into the profession (rather than a goal to which teachers might aspire) and a growing body of research has revealed its underlying credentials to be weakly correlated with student achievement. Meanwhile, congressional interest has begun to shift from a focus on teacher input (i.e., quality) to teacher output (i.e., effectiveness). Most recently, Congress passed provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which required states applying for State Fiscal Stabilization Funds to provide assurances that they will take actions to improve teacher effectiveness. Further, policymakers at all levels are considering how such issues as teacher compensation, licensure or certification, and tenure may relate to teacher performance in the classroom.

The authorization for ESEA programs expired at the end of FY2008, and the 112
th Congress is expected to consider whether to amend and extend the ESEA. This report provides background information for the legislative debates likely to occur as this process unfolds. The report gives a brief overview of the context in which federal teacher policy is situated, describes the evolving federal role in this area and the major federal programs designed to support the quality and effectiveness of teachers, and discuses policy issues that may arise as Congress considers ESEA reauthorization.

Date of Report: November 18, 2010
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: R41267
Price: $29.95

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