An Effective Teacher in Every Classroom

When it comes to education reform, it is often easy to focus on the tree, but miss the forest.  This has been particularly true with No Child Left Behind, where many have lent a keen eye to a particular stumbling block, failing to see how it fits into the greater improvement.

No where is this more true than in NCLB’s Highly Qualified Teacher provisions.  HQT has been a lightning rod for the past five years.  The provision seems pretty simple.  That the teachers leading our classrooms should have background in the subject or subjects they are teaching.  Seems common sense, no, that students should be taught by educators who have documented knowledge in the subject matter?

Of course, many NCLB opponents saw this as an affront to the classroom teacher.  It was an attack on the thousands of teachers gather the strength to pick up the chalk and stand in front of the classroom day after day.

While many of us are bursting with anticipation regarding the potential reauthorization of NCLB this year, a diverse group of policymakers have stepped forward to add a little strength to the HQT provisions.  Their message — effectiveness.

Yesterday, Senators Lieberman (CT), Landrieu (LA), and Coleman (MN) unveiled the All Students Can Achieve Act of 2007.  Imagine, an Independent, a Democrat, and a Republican all joining together to advocate for education reform and improvement.  It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye of a cynic like Eduflack.

All hold my tongue on the introduction of another acronym (ASCA), but the messaging behind this announcement is brilliant in its simplicity.  To borrow from Lieberman’s press release (thanks This Week in Education), the law is designed to “achieve student growth by focusing on what’s most important: achieving results in the classroom and ensuring effective teachers,” “encourage high standards throughout the country and better align the curriculum of schools across America,” and “focuses on closing the achievement gap by holding schools accountable for the performance of all students and providing resources to address this gap.”

Three noble goals.  All achievable.  All necessary to improve our nation’s public schools.  And all common sense to the average taxpayer.  Who is going to stand up and say we shouldn’t focus on achieving results in the classroom?  Who’s opposed to high standards and aligned curriculum?  And can anyone say that closing the achievement gap is a waste of our time?

Building off of the recommendations of Aspen’s NCLB Commission, this trio of senators are proposing legislation that will both strengthen NCLB as a whole and finally return the volleys from those critical of HQT.  How?  Instead of setting the bar at certification, teachers are now going to be measured on their effectiveness.  What a novel concept.

Kudos to ASCA’s parents for offering up real ideas on how to improve NCLB.  And a round of applause for those willing to acknowledge that the ultimate measure of ed reform effectiveness is improved student achievement, including Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee for lending their support to the initiative.  Results matter.  Kids don’t succeed in school and in life because of well-meaning intentions.  They succeed because effective teachers taught them, assessed them, and ensured that they achieved.  

Don’t believe me?  Just try and find one good teacher who doesn’t measure themselves by the success of their students.     

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