Press Release

The provisions of the Title II discussion draft released yesterday by the Education and Labor Committee are a critical step forward for teaching and learning in classrooms throughout the country, especially the classrooms of low-income and minority students.

“This draft is crystal clear in its insistence that poor kids and kids of color get what they most need in order to achieve at high levels -– their fair share of strong teachers,” said Amy Wilkins of The Education Trust. “Title II, along with the comparability proposals in last week’s Title I draft, is a declaration that the needs of kids must come first when it comes to how we staff our schools.”

The draft dramatically recasts Title II, melding demands for systemic change in teacher assignment patterns with rich incentives to encourage our best teachers to take on the most challenging assignments. Under these provisions, teachers doing the hard work of boosting student achievement under tough circumstances would have their extra efforts acknowledged and their successes rewarded.

“The staff draft has recognized that teachers who succeed in extraordinary circumstances deserve more than ordinary compensation,” said Wilkins. “For far too long, we’’ve tried to achieve equity and close gaps on the backs of saints. That’s not fair to these teachers, and it won’t work for kids.”

In addition to focusing on performance pay, the draft puts forth proposals for making teaching assignments more attractive at hard-to-staff schools.

“Our nation’s most valuable educational resource is our teachers, and we can’’t close the achievement gap without closing the gap in teacher talent,” said Wilkins. “Having said that, the draft recognizes that we can’t force teachers to go to schools where they don’t want to teach. By investing in our high-needs schools, we can create conditions in which our very best teachers will actually want to work.”

As important and positive as the draft is, one issue still needs attention. The bill should provide a clear funding formula so that the neediest schools get the most help. While Title II funds are now targeted so that high-poverty school districts benefit most, current law fails to ensure that the poorest schools within those districts get the support they need. In November 2005, a Congressionally-requested audit by the Government Accountability Office found that Title II was being spread too thinly across whole districts without any focus on the schools or teachers most in need of help. This targeting is critical to ensuring that the rest of the proposals have their intended effect, so we’re confident that these provisions will be strengthened in the final bill.

To both raise achievement and close gaps, we need aggressive efforts to increase teacher quality nationwide while simultaneously eliminating the inequities of teacher talent distribution. This draft is a roadmap for that action, making Title II the powerful tool for equity that Congress intended it to be, and that students need it to be.