The Equitable Distribution of High-Quality Teachers: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Has Brought Renewed Interest to This Topic

By Bumgardner, Stan | District Administration, February 2010 | Go to article overview

The Equitable Distribution of High-Quality Teachers: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Has Brought Renewed Interest to This Topic


Bumgardner, Stan, District Administration


A NEW REPORT BY THE NATIONAL Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (TQ Center) highlights efforts across the nation to address a key point in the No Child Left Behind law and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)--the equitable distribution of high-quality teachers across all schools.

Research consistently has pointed to effective teaching as the most significant factor affecting student achievement (Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005; Babu & Mendro, 2003). The most commonly applied definition of high-quality teachers derives from the No Child Left Behind law: "the teacher has obtained full State certification as a teacher ... or passed the State teacher licensing examination, and holds a license to teach in such State, except that when used with respect to any teacher teaching in a public charter school."

Perhaps the most challenging task for school districts is the recruitment and retention of effective teachers, particularly in high-poverty and/or high minority schools. One goal of the No Child Left Behind law was to "ensure that poor and minority students are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers." While progress has been made, inequities still exist in high-poverty and high-minority schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2009; Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008). The ARRA has brought renewed interest to this topic. States must demonstrate an equitable distribution of high-quality teachers as one of four assurances prior to receiving the second phase of ARRA funding.

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States and districts across the country have initiated efforts to recruit and retain high-quality teachers in these schools. The challenge is twofold: (1) What incentives will attract high-quality teachers to these schools? (2) What characteristics will entice them to remain? Additionally, which entity is primarily responsible? State? District? School?

The Status of the Problem

According to the TQ Center's August 2009 report, most states and districts increasingly are placing greater emphasis on teacher credentials and the development of longitudinal data systems that link student results with teachers. The report found that states increasingly require more "robust preparation programs"; emphasize the identification, recruitment and placement of effective teachers; and encourage technical assistance for teachers. It also analyzed the myriad challenges in accomplishing these goals, particularly while addressing the specific needs of students with disabilities and English language learners.

The TQ Center underscored the problem that high-quality teachers work disproportionately in low-minority and/ or low-poverty schools. It confirmed the findings of other studies that high minority and/or high-poverty schools have difficulty recruiting and retaining high quality teachers. But why is this so?

Unfortunately, research that might answer this question is lacking, due in part to the inconsistency of data among schools and districts; however, existing studies point to a few common characteristics that hinder retention: lack of teacher autonomy, student behavioral problems and lack of support by administrators. The report suggested that states and districts should collect and analyze more student and teacher data, work more closely with teacher unions in developing high-quality teacher plans, build the skills of existing teachers as opposed to encouraging effective teachers to transfer from other schools and understand that a productive school culture and effective leadership may be as significant as teacher income.

Statewide Efforts in Delaware and Tennessee

The examples of Delaware and Tennessee may provide state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) with a better understanding of the challenges and next steps in ensuring the equitable distribution of high-quality teachers. …

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