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5 Principles for Racing to Teacher Quality

By Jeanne Allen
CER President
October 8, 2009

1.) The federal government should issue guidance to states barring anti-reform school districts from receiving any “Race to the Top” funds. 
”In some school districts, it doesn’t matter whether federal and state law encourages reforms such as performance pay, because teacher collective bargaining agreements in those districts forbid reform. This little-known secret could throw a wrench in ‘Race to the Top’ funding, rendering the ‘Race’ meaningless as a reform catalyst. States should not be permitted to funnel a single dime of ‘Race to the Top’ funds to Districts that have collective bargaining agreements prohibiting, for example, the use of student performance in evaluating teachers. To send money to these districts would be to condone the ‘adults first, kids second’ mentality that has decimated learning in far too many schools.”

2.) The federal government should reward states that provide multiple pathways to teacher licensure. 
”Tying ‘Race to the Top’ funds to a dynamic, highly-talented, and evolving teacher force can yield positive changes for students. The federal government should reward states that utilize all good teacher certification options available – including true alternative certification programs that require high levels of teacher content knowledge. Studies show that well-designed alternative certification programs produce teachers who boost student achievement at faster rates. States that refuse to accept new pathways to certification are denying students access to great teachers.”

3.) The federal government should reward states that develop genuine, data-driven pay-for-performance systems. 
”States that develop and use comprehensive data collection systems to reward teachers who best improve student achievement – whether through statewide models or pilot programs – should get priority for ‘Race to the Top’ funding. While many bureaucrats claim that linking student and teacher data is impossible, the modern workforce in almost every other industry teaches us otherwise. Accordingly, the federal government should demand that states use data-driven models – not half-measures like teacher portfolios – to reward effective teachers.”

4.) The federal government should reward states that encourage Districts to adopt alternative tenure models. 
”Alternative tenure models – such as the ones championed by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee – have the potential to revolutionize teaching. Under Rhee’s plan, teachers who are willing to defer tenure will receive major financial benefits. Delaying tenure for a modest amount of time can prevent situations like New York City’s notorious “Rubber Rooms,” where thousands of bad teachers are prohibited from teaching but remain on the district’s payroll, costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year. The federal government can use ‘Race to the Top’ to make it easier to terminate teachers who aren’t doing any good for our children.”

5.) The federal government should reward states that protect teacher paychecks. 
”So-called ‘paycheck protection’ is a hot-button issue, but we must revisit it. Teacher’s unions complain – and often rightfully so – about the low pay afforded to first year teachers. But these unions, with their high dues structure and expensive political work, contribute to lower take home pay. Consider California, where some teachers pay in excess of $1,100 in union dues and first year teachers make $39,000. Reducing deducted dues could yield immediate money for cash-strapped educators.”

For more information, see also 
CER Press Release: Jeanne Allen: Federal Race to the Top Funds for State Teacher
Quality Efforts Need Strings Attached
, October 8, 2009.

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