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EXCELLENT EDUCATORS FOR ALL?: U.S. Department of Education Launches New Initiative to End Disparities in Students’ Access to Great Teachers

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“Despite the excellent work and deep commitment of our nation’s teachers and principals, systemic inequities exist that shortchange students in high-poverty, high-minority schools across our country. We have to do better," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Nationally, African American and American Indian students are four times as likely as white students to attend a school where more than 20 percent of teachers are in their first year of teaching; Latino students are three times as likely, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) Civil Rights Data Collection. On July 7, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a new initiative to end disparities in students’ access to great teachers. The Excellent Educators for All initiative would require states to submit new state educator equity plans by April 2015 describing what steps they would take to ensure that low-income students and students of color are not taught by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers at higher rates than other children.

“All children are entitled to a high-quality education regardless of their race, zip code, or family income. It is critically important that we provide teachers and principals the support they need to help students reach their full potential,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Despite the excellent work and deep commitment of our nation’s teachers and principals, systemic inequities exist that shortchange students in high-poverty, high-minority schools across our country. We have to do better. Local leaders and educators will develop their own innovative solutions, but we must work together to enhance and invigorate our focus on how to better recruit, support and retain effective teachers and principals for all students, especially the kids who need them most.”

The state educator equity plans are a pre-existing requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act that had largely gone unenforced, according to Education Week’s “Politics K–12” blog. “Under NCLB, which was signed into law in 2002, states were required to ensure that poor and minority students were not being taught by unqualified teachers at a higher rate than other students. But fewer than half of states have separate teacher-equity plans on file with the department,” it notes.

ED is offering several tools to help states craft their plans, including a new $4.2 million technical assistance network that would support states and districts in developing and implementing their plans, develop model plans, share promising practices, provide communities of practice for educators to discuss challenges and share lessons learned with each other, and create a network of support for educators working in high-need schools. This fall, ED will publish “Educator Equity” profiles that will help states identify gaps in access to quality teaching for low-income and minority students and highlight places where high-need schools are successfully recruiting and retaining effective educators.

More information on the initiative is available at http://1.usa.gov/1ruWvRG.

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