A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

May 17, 2007

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part II

So much to say about this issue, about which I have very strong feelings.

This is a follow-up from a post from Morewhat.com and Maggie’s Notebook. While I enjoy these blogs immensely, I have a feeling a friendly cat fight may break out. I trust that these fine two blogs will enjoy our agreeable disagreement! 🙂

First off, I will give a disclaimer. I am a teacher and prospective administrator in the public schools. I also support the public school’s mission from a historical and practical perspective. I also will admit that I am probably in the minority of public educators in that I strongly support most of the reauthorization of Title I commonly known as NCLB.

While I feel that there is need of revision in some of the legislation, I would add that with regard to promoting equity in society, and if you work in the public schools, particularly in inner city and rural schools, you know there is a great amount of inequity within this institution, NCLB is one of the most progressive (and I am not a dyed in the wool Conservative) and needed mandates this nation has produced. This will likely be a very lengthy series of posts, and will be gleaned from position papers I have written in pursuit of an advanced diploma in Educational Administration and in papers presented as part of my pursuit of an Ed.D.

In these posts I will be making frequent references to scholarly papers – all of these are empirical studies – no offense to qualitative researchers. I will attempt to be brief.

The first part is an Introduction to NCLB – or why the law came about.

In 2001 the landmark “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001”, (NCLB) was passed overwhelmingly by Congress, and signed into law by President George W. Bush. NCLB includes statutory mandates that require all teachers in public schools to be “highly qualified” (“No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.” 2002) The law further mandates that each state and district receiving Title I funding develop plans with the goal “to ensure that all teachers teaching in core academic subjects are highly qualified by the end of the 2005-2006 school year” (§NCLB, 2002, 6319 (a) (2)). The law also recognized the difficulties facing schools that primarily service low income children.

Research shows that schools with high poverty rates also attract lower amounts of high quality teachers (Lankford, Loebb & Weikoff; 2002). Therefore, a provision of NCLB was added for states to report the average quality measures for those schools with the highest poverty rates and those with the lowest poverty rates. (Sunderman, Kim, 2005). The purpose of the NCLB highly qualified teacher requirements is to make sure that all students are taught by teachers who really know the content of what they teach (U.S. Department of Education, 2004).

The law was also aware that those schools that suffered the highest poverty rates, typically those within inner city school districts, attracted the teachers that were the least highly qualified. Therefore, by statute schools were required to dedicate 5% of their Title I entitlements towards professional development. Furthermore, states were given the ability to receive additional funding by utilization of Improving Teacher Quality Grants. It was intended that this funding be used to aid schools in recruiting, training, retaining, and developing highly qualified teachers. (Sunderman, Kim, 2005)

The Need for Highly Quality Teachers

A large body of research shows that students taught by a highly qualified teacher perform significantly better than those that do not receive such training (Darling-Hammond, 2001; Darling-Hammond & Youngs, 2002; King, Rice 2003; Loeb, 2000; Wayne & Youngs, 2003). Indeed, the quality level of the teacher is the single most important factor in educational achievement, and the effects are cumulative in nature. A well regarded study by Eric Hanushek stated “the estimated difference in annual achievement growth between having a good and having a bad teacher can be more than one grade-level equivalent in test performance” (p.107). Furthermore, it has been shown that those students that suffer from the highest gap in achievement have the greatest need for highly qualified teachers, and that those schools that have the greatest need of these highly qualified teachers lack them significantly more than other schools (Sunderman, Kim, 2005).

Nationally, many schools, including those in New York State, are struggling with finding highly qualified teachers to fill the ever increasing needs of areas that traditionally are at risk due to low student achievement. (Sunderman and Kim; 2005) In most cases the shortages of highly qualified teachers can be found in large urban cities and rural areas spread throughout the nation (Lankford, Loebb & Weikoff; 2002). The challenge of finding highly qualified teachers to fill these traditionally hard to staff schools is increasing partially by other aspects of NCLB legislation (Southeast Center for Teacher Quality, 2005). Part of the NCLB legislation involves measuring annual school performance on the basis of standardized testing. Traditionally, schools that lacked highly qualified teachers lagged behind other schools without such a lack, and some studies suggest the proposed remedies offered by NCLB may be exacerbating rather relieving the disparity in attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers to stay in schools that suffer from low student achievement (Walsh & Snyder, 2004; O’Tracy, Walsh, 2005; Walsh, 2006).

In New York State the greatest area of need for highly qualified teachers is found within urban settings such as New York City and Buffalo (Sunderman, Kim, 2005) Yet, these inner city schools have a much higher proportion on teachers who are not highly qualified working with students than those in suburban areas. Typically the inner city schools service children who are by a great majority, poorer, in greater need of extra resources, have significantly less financial resources, and are composed of significantly more minority students than their suburban counterparts. (Learning First Alliance, 2005) While significant progress has been made in narrowing the wide achievement gap in student performance in New York State in math and language arts (Education Trust, 2004) much more work needs to be done before it can be stated that there is any semblance of parity between the urban schools and those of their suburban counterparts.

More to follow…………



  1. I’ll keep the disclaimer in mind. 🙂

    Comment by Stanford Matthews — May 17, 2007 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

  2. hmmmm…very interesting!
    Thanks google

    Comment by Glofaky — January 17, 2008 @ 5:13 pm | Reply

  3. Hi all. Cool site Google

    Comment by Wourdy — February 11, 2008 @ 10:37 am | Reply

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