At their annual meeting last month, mayors from across the country agreed to become more active in influencing “the preparation, recruitment, induction and retention of teachers” in urban school systems. In addition, they unanimously adopted a series of education resolutions in support of reforming high schools, afterschool programs, equity and adequacy in education funding, quality pre-kindergarten education for all children, school construction, schools as centers of community, and urban summer education programs.
The resolution concerning teacher preparation and induction was in alignment with many of the findings and recommendations found in the Alliance for Excellent Education’s recent report Tapping the Potential: Retaining and Developing High-Quality New Teachers. Like the Alliance, the U.S. Conference of Mayors believes that urban school systems should use teacher preparation funds from the No Child Left Behind Act to provide comprehensive induction programs to all beginning teachers.
The mayors also asked Congress to include a comprehensive induction requirement for all grant recipients under Title II in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Finally, the mayors asked Congress to provide new funding to “ensure that every new teacher in our nation’s highest need schools receives the support and training, and has quality work conditions necessary to continue to teach in urban schools.”
In the resolution on reforming high schools, the mayors chose to focus on ensuring that every student is adequately prepared for college or the workforce. They noted that “no state can currently claim that every student who earns a high school diploma is academically prepared for postsecondary education and the world of work.” In California, for example, 58 percent of the 38,086 freshmen who enrolled in the state university system in the fall of 2003 did not have basic English and math skills.
The resolution called for the federal government to take several steps to change this situation: to influence states to ensure that their standards are aligned with the knowledge and skills expected by colleges and employers; to require, through the Higher Education Act, reauthorization data on the numbers of students who take remedial courses in college; and to take steps to “provide influence and support such as providing student financial aid incentives for high school students who take a college or workplace readiness curriculum.” In their respective presidential campaigns, both President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry have focused on the need for a rigorous high school curriculum.
These new resolutions come on the heels of another, passed at last year’s annual conference, that called on Congress to pass and fund legislation that establishes an adolescent reading program. According to the resolution, the program would be “similar to Reading First, but focused on middle and high school students to ensure that they have the skills to complete high school, attend college, and be a part of America’s 21st century workforce.” The resolution further encouraged federal, state, and local governments to “address the academic and social needs of the six million children at risk of dropping out of high school.”
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of the nation’s 1,183 U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 or more.
Learn more about the U.S. Conference of Mayors and its annual conference at http://www.usmayors.org/.
The Alliance’s Tapping the Potential report is available here.