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Teacher Quality Key Focus in Education Reform Efforts
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Teacher quality was the subject of a hearing before the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee this afternoon, with experts underscoring the critical role of effective teachers in improving student academic achievement. Republicans have identified “letting teachers teach” as a core principle for education reform.
“No one denies the success of our education system depends largely upon the quality of classroom instruction. Students deserve the most effective teachers because their future achievement may well depend upon the caliber of the men or women standing before them in the classroom,” said Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), the senior Republican on the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee, in his opening remarks at the hearing. “Academic research has confirmed that students with excellent teachers excel while those assigned to teachers that are less effective sadly lag behind.”
“Effective teachers are essential for closing achievement gaps and raising the bar so all our children can succeed in the 21st century,” commented Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the committee’s top Republican. “Parents, local school leaders, and state education systems need the tools and flexibility to measure teacher effectiveness and reward teachers for their success in the classroom. Unfortunately, all too often rigid contract requirements and tenure rules favor longevity over quality, and our children pay the price.”
Witnesses testified about barriers to teacher and student success, including federal, state, and local policies that limit flexibility and prevent local school leaders from rewarding high-quality educators.
“Never before have there been such coordinated efforts by federal, state, and local education stakeholders to put the full focus of our system of schools where it belongs—on students,” testified Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana's superintendent of public instruction. “Our greatest challenge is to unite aggressively against all forces working to oppose reform that benefits school children. In Indiana and states across the nation, the most striking, most powerful impediment to improving instructional quality and school leadership has been those organizations charged, principally, to protect the integrity of the teaching profession: teachers’ unions.”
“The findings of modern research strongly confirm what parents, teachers, and school administrators have always known: The quality of a child’s teacher is the most important factor within a school’s control that determines a student’s learning in a given year. The best estimates indicate that the difference for a student being taught by a good or bad teacher amounts to about an additional grade level's worth of learning at the end of the school year,” testified Dr. Marcus Winters, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute. “Unfortunately, despite the substantial variation in teacher quality, the current system fails to distinguish between our best and worst teachers. Nearly all teachers are rated satisfactory or higher according to their official evaluations.”
As Congress prepares to reform elementary and secondary education, Republicans are focused on strategies to improve teacher training, embrace innovative strategies to put qualified professionals in the classroom, and empower states and local schools to ensure all students are learning from effective educators. For more information on the hearing including full copies of witness testimony, click here.
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