NSBA's Letter to the U.S. House of Representatives: February 6, 2008
February 6, 2008
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515 Re: H.R. 4137, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007
On behalf of the 95,000 school board members who serve the nation’s 49 million
students in our local public school districts, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) thanks you for your leadership in moving forward with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, H.R. 4137 (The College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007), scheduled for a floor vote tomorrow. School board members have particular interest in Title II, the Teacher Quality Enhancement grants, because of the useful role they can play in strengthening teacher quality, which is a critical component to raising student achievement and fulfilling the goals of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) / No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
In general, NSBA is pleased with the reforms included in Title II of H.R. 4137 as passed by the House Education and Labor Committee last November and urge their inclusion in a final House bill. Support for Continuation of Partnership Grants
NSBA welcomes the streamlined focus on teacher quality partnership grants, which directly involve local school districts. Quality teacher preparation programs are integral to ensuring the nation has an adequate supply of outstanding teachers today and in the future, and few would disagree that the nation’s programs have room for improvement. In fact, research indicates that many new teachers believe that their training programs do not adequately prepare them for the classroom. The matching partnership grants can assist in improving pre-baccalaureate teacher preparation programs.
We support the grants’ focus on ensuring that teacher preparation programs are aligned with states’ academic standards and prepare candidates to meet NCLB’s highly qualified provisions, including a specific mention of preparing rural school teachers of multiple subjects and special education teachers – two categories of educators for which meeting the highly qualified requirements are especially challenging. We also appreciate the grants’ focus on teaching candidates to effectively use technology and data to improve instruction, to create and provide induction and mentoring programs, and to implement effective recruitment strategies, including alternative routes to teacher certification.
NSBA is pleased with the potentially promising addition to Title II of teaching residency programs. Partnership funds can be used by local districts to establish and operate a residency program for recent college graduates or mid-career professionals to receive financial support and learn alongside a mentor teacher for one school year in a high-need school, if they commit to teaching in such a school, designated by the local education agency, for at least three years upon completion of the residency program.
NSBA further supports the requirement that the Secretary of Education give priority to grant applications that include teacher preparation programs with rigorous selection criteria to assist in encouraging the highest quality candidates to enter the teaching field. Increased Accountability for Teacher Preparation Programs
NSBA strongly supports Section 206 “Teacher Development,” which requires institutions of higher education with a teacher preparation program to establish and publicly report on annual quantifiable goals for increasing the number of teachers in shortage areas, increasing collaboration with local school districts to ensure training matches LEAs’ needs, and focusing on effective training to teach students with disabilities, a diverse student enrollment and in urban and rural schools. National Study on Best Practices in Teacher Preparation
NSBA supports Section 202, which calls for a National Academy of Sciences multi-year study examining best practices in teacher preparation, including a focus on improving teaching skills for those who work with a diverse student population, as well as classroom management. Universal Design for Learning Principles
Lastly, NSBA appreciates the inclusion of a promising teaching method called Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as one of the authorized activities eligible for funding under Title VII.
We appreciate your consideration of our recommendation as the House votes tomorrow on H.R. 4137, and thank you for your leadership in renewing this important law. If you have any questions or would like further information please contact Marcus Egan, Director of Federal Affairs at (703) 838-6707 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael A. Resnick
Associate Executive Director