A recent report highlights improvements in student achievement made by five high-poverty school districts through a focus on improved teaching. The report, Beyond Islands of Excellence: What Districts Can Do to Improve Instruction and Achievement in All Schools, issued by the Learning First Alliance, examines districts that draw at least 38 percent of their students from poor families, and have shown three or more years of improvement in test scores across subjects, grade levels, and racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The report identified characteristics that are common to a number of districts in order to suggest which spending might have the largest payoff in student achievement. It found that several districts overhauled their curricula to better align it with state academic standards and modified professional development to support new academic goals. As a result, districts eliminated one-shot teacher workshops and instead chose to focus on nurturing in-house teaching experts, supporting new teachers, and encouraging educators at every level to use data to guide instruction. They also committed themselves to sustaining reform over the long haul.
Researchers were also able to identify obstacles that limited district and school success. One common problem was too little time for teacher collaboration: “While many schools increased the amount of collaborative time available, carving out an hour or two a week for reflection, only a limited number significantly overhauled the school day,” according to the report. As a result, in many schools, teachers felt overwhelmed by the additional demands and new expectations placed on them. An additional problem was a district dependence on external and short-term funding from the state and federal government that often could not be sustained.
The complete report can be found at: http://www.learningfirst.org/bie/bie.html
|Tax Credits for Teachers: Why Not?
Recently introduced by U.S. Reps. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Max Sandlin (D-TX), H.R. 1643, the Low-income Educator Assistance and Relief Now (LEARN) Act, would help hard-to-staff schools in both rural and urban areas attract and retain high-quality teachers. According to initial estimates by the National Education Association, approximately 800,000 educators would benefit from this tax credit each year, a total financial benefit of about $1.4 to $1.5 billion annually.
The LEARN Act has 31 original cosponsors from both political parties. If enacted, it would provide a $2,000 tax credit to any teacher or principal who teaches in a Title I eligible school (a school with at least 40 percent of its students from families in poverty).
On the other side of Capitol Hill, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) reintroduced a bill that would offer tax credits to teachers in hard-to-staff schools and to those who obtain national certification. The bill, the Incentives to Educate American Children Act of 2003 (I TEACH), promises a $1,000 tax credit to teachers who work in rural or low-income schools, and an additional $1,000 tax credit for those who earn a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. To earn such a distinction, teachers must have a bachelor’s degree, three years of classroom experience, and must pass a written exam.