Press Release

(Washington, DC) – “The Education Trust released today a report criticizing the U.S. Department of Education for failing to make adequate progress implementing the crucial teacher quality provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The report comes as states submit their baseline data to the Department on teacher quality indicators, including their definition of “highly qualified” teachers.

“After two years of failing to make adequate progress on implementing the teacher quality provisions in NCLB, the Department is ‘in need of improvement’ on this issue. While they’ve made real progress implementing some areas of the law, such as working with states on the accountability provisions, they need to ensure that they’re also focusing on the teacher quality requirements,” said Ross Wiener, policy director for The Education Trust on releasing the report.

Research on the importance of teacher quality is abundantly clear: teacher quality is the single most important factor in determining the success of children in school – more than race, poverty, or any other outside influence. When it comes to closing the achievement gap for poor and minority students, good teaching matters most. But the Department of Education has fallen short on providing adequate focus on the issue.

According to the report, “For the past two years, the Department has acted as if it believed accountability, alone, will bring about better achievement. The teacher quality provisions of NCLB have been at various times ignored, misinterpreted, and misunderstood. There is too little focus on these important issues and widespread confusion about what they mean. As a result, NCLB is seen by many as an attempt to arbitrarily punish experienced teachers, instead of what it actually is – a law that embraces the central importance of those teachers in helping students learn.”

While Title II of NCLB provides almost $3 billion a year to focus on teacher quality, the federal government has been derelict in ensuring that this money benefits the teachers and schools most in need. According to a recent GAO report, many states have not even developed the data systems they need to be able to appropriately target these funds.

“Without clear leadership from the Department, many of the teacher quality provisions in the law simply aren’t being addressed,” Wiener concluded.

In the report, The Education Trust documents the Department’s numerous shortcomings and calls on them to take 10 specific and immediate steps to help schools raise achievement for all students and close the achievement gap by increasing the quality of teachers.