NSBA's Letter to the U.S. Senate: July 23, 2007
July 23, 2007
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
On behalf of the 95,000 school board members who serve the nation’s 48 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, S. 1642 (Higher Education Amendments of 2007), scheduled for a floor vote today. 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 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
In general, NSBA is pleased with the changes to Title II that were included in S. 1642 as passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last month. We welcome the streamlined focus on teacher quality partnership grants, which directly involve local school districts. These matching grants have the potential to help improve pre-baccalaureate teacher preparation programs. Quality teacher preparation programs are an integral component to ensuring the nation has an adequate supply of outstanding teachers today and in the future. Few would disagree that the nation’s teacher preparation 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 proposed changes to Title II will help ensure that teacher preparation programs are aligned with academic standards, prepare candidates to meet NCLB’s highly qualified provisions, teach candidates to effectively use technology and data to improve instruction, and assist in the creation of induction programs for new teachers.
A potentially promising addition to Title II, as passed by the committee, is the inclusion of teaching residency programs as one concept eligible for matching grants. Funds can be used by local school districts to establish and operate a residency program for recent college graduates or mid-career professionals to receive financial support while pursuing a master’s degree and certification and while learning alongside a mentor teacher for one school year in a high-need school. The candidate commits to teaching in a high-need school in that district for at least 3 years, while continuing to receive intensive professional development and mentoring.
NSBA supports the inclusion of the residency program strategy in the Higher Education reauthorization and is pleased that a previous prohibition on involving schools in “corrective action” under NCLB has been removed. The residency program approach could be one possible remedy for helping to turn around struggling schools and local school districts should have the flexibility and discretion to make that decision. While few teaching residency programs currently exist, there have been promising results for some, and we believe this is one strategy for assisting districts in developing home-grown teacher recruitment and retention programs.
While the committee-passed bill does include some provisions to hold teacher preparation programs accountable, NSBA believes more could be done to ensure programs are providing future teachers with the subject matter knowledge and classroom skills needed to be successful. Through incentives, Congress could encourage states to develop data systems that allow for tracking the preparedness and success of teacher preparation program graduates, similar to Louisiana’s Teacher Preparation Accountability System.
We appreciate your consideration of our recommendations and thank you for your leadership in renewing this important law. If you have any questions, 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