The Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights has called for greater enforcement of the No Child Left Behind requirement that states and districts ensure poor and minority students are not disproportionably taught by inexperienced teachers.
A report released yesterday (Thursday), “Days of Reckoning: Are States and the Federal Government Up to the Challenge of Ensuring a Qualified Teacher for Every Student?” indicates that states and school districts are not complying with the law. The report coincides with a new deadline set by U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings for states to submit detailed plans to bring qualified teachers to the nation’s poorest schools and classrooms.
“We are encouraged that the secretary now seems ready to act. But too much time has been lost,” says William Taylor, chairman of the Citizens’ Commission. “This additional time that the secretary has given states should be full of aggressive action on the part of states and districts to address the inequitable distribution of teachers in particular.”
Adds commission executive director and study co-author Dianne Piché, “We want to see those plans, and we’d like to see the Department of Education very carefully scrutinize them and be realistic and help to reduce disparities.”
According to the report, federal officials have not taken any significant action with respect to the teacher quality and equity requirements. The report charges that states have been allowed to set extremely low standards for teacher quality. Those standards — along with inaccurate and misleading data — allowed states to essentially cover up discrepancies in teacher quality between high-poverty and low-poverty schools.
The commission’s recommendations include more transparency, accurate data reporting and more aggressive action by the states.
“We are troubled by the fact that it’s been four years since the law was signed … the Department of Education should force states to comply or impose sanctions,” says Piché. “Otherwise they should terminate state funding or, in cases of serious non-compliance, report them to the [U.S.] Department of Justice.”
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., released a statement saying the report focuses on the need to ensure equitable access to highly qualified teachers for low-income and minority students.
“We made progress in the No Child Left Behind Act, with its recognition that all students deserve first-rate teachers, but the Citizen’s Commission report confirms that we have a lot of work to do to fulfill the commitment we made to our children’s future,” said Kennedy in the statement.
The Education Trust, an independent nonprofit organization, also released a report last month called “Teaching Inequality: How Poor and Minority Students Are Shortchanged on Teacher Quality.” That report was published before Spellings extended the deadline for states.
“Children of color and poverty suffer most from our continued failure to correct these teacher disparities,” says Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. “These students don’t just score lower on tests, they are less prepared for college and the work place as well.”
The full report is available www.cccr.org/DaysofReckoning.pdf
— By Shilpa Banerji
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