The research is clear that a talented teacher is the most important school-based factor influencing student achievement. The importance of good teachers to student achievement is a driving force behind legislative action to support improvements in teacher effectiveness. Following are key approaches for reform at the federal and state levels.
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
In the area of educator effectiveness, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) delegates to states and districts authority for defining effectiveness and provides a number of new approaches to professional development to increase instructional effectiveness.
Through the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program (formerly called the Teacher Incentive Fund), the ESSA provides federal funds to support state and district innovation to improve classroom instruction and student learning.
This program supports new evaluation systems based on multiple measures including student learning, teacher leadership roles and responsibilities, school-based professional support aligned to evaluation results, and opportunities for performance-based compensation.
Changes to Title II also encourage districts to focus on educator effectiveness solutions, as does a new STEM Master Teacher initiative included in the law.
Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF)
The Teacher Incentive Fund annually provides funding for school districts and states to develop and implement innovative ways to provide financial incentives for teachers and principals who raise student achievement and close the achievement gap in some of America's highest-need schools.
In the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed into law, funding for TIF was increased by $200 million. In addition, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Appropriations Bill enacted in late 2009 provided another $400 million for the funding of TIF. This increased funding through the two bills allowed the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to reopen the program and award funding to 62 new grantees in September 2010.
In April 2011, the Full-Year Continuing Resolution Act of FY 2011 was passed with funding for TIF remaining at $400 million for the fiscal year. ED anticipates a new competition for TIF will be conducted in late spring and summer of 2011. For updates on the new competition, please check on the Federal Register and the U.S. Department of Education's Teacher Incentive Fund Web page periodically.
The Teacher Incentive Fund was created in 2006 with $99 million in funding. In the first year of grant funding, only 34 grantees were selected from a large field of applicants representing urban and rural states, districts and schools. FY 2008 funding was $97 million and funded the continuation of the grants, which are designated for five years, although dependent on annual appropriations. Congress maintained funding at $97 million in its FY 2009 Appropriations Bill. The ARRA added another $200 million for TIF. The FY 2010 Appropriations Bill increased TIF funding to $400 million. The FY 2011 Continuing Resolution maintains TIF funding at $400 million.
The Obama administration in its blueprint for reauthorization of ESEA recommended consolidating TIF into a new ED program called the Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund (TLIF). The new TLIF would consolidate TIF and the Advanced Credentialing program.
This competitive grant program would provide funds for states and school districts to reform compensation systems to provide differentiated pay and career advancement opportunities to educators. In addition, grantees would be encouraged to use the funds to take on additional innovative reforms, such as improving teacher salary schedules to eliminate additional pay for credentials (which have been proven not to be linked with student learning gains).
While the blueprint has never been enacted, the administration has continued to recommend consolidating TIF its yearly Department of Education budget proposals.
An authorization bill for the Teacher Incentive Fund, the Teacher Incentive Fund Act (H.R. 1761), was introduced in March 2007 by Representative Tom Price (R-GA), along with a bipartisan group of 16 co-sponsors.
Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED)
The Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) is a competitive grant program designed to improve student achievement by increasing the effectiveness of teachers and principals in high-need schools.
The national nonprofits funded under SEED will enhance preparation of pre-service teachers, provide professional development to in-service teachers and leaders, and disseminate best practices. NIET is the recipient of two SEED grants in partnership with districts and higher education institutions, to recruit, select, prepare and provide professional development activities for teachers and principals serving high-need students.
Initially funded at $25 million in 2011, SEED was funded at $30 million in fiscal year 2014. The projects' activities must be supported by past evidence of success. NIET received two SEED grants in 2013, one in partnership with Arizona State University and Arizona high-need school districts, and one in partnership with Texas Tech University and high-need Texas school districts.
The President's FY 2015 budget proposal requests $50 million for SEED. For further information, visit the U.S. Department of Education's Supporting Effective Educator Development Web page.
Title II, Part A: Improving Teacher Quality State Grants
Title II, Part A, also known as the Improving Teacher Quality state grants, is a formula funding program to increase student academic achievement by improving teacher and principal effectiveness.
The program seeks to increase the number of highly qualified teachers in classrooms; increase the number of highly qualified principals and assistant principals in schools; and increase the effectiveness of teachers and principals.
Awards are made to State Education Agencies (SEAs), which make subgrants to local education agencies (LEAs). State agencies for higher education (SAHE) also receive a separate formula grant under this program and, in turn, award competitive grants to partnerships of Institutions of Higher Education and high-need LEAs. The President's FY 2015 budget proposal requests $2 billion for this program.
For further information, visit the U.S. Department of Education's Improving Teacher Quality State Grants Web page.
Teacher Excellence for All Children Act (TEACH Act)
Federal Bill – 110th Congress
More than 40 members of the 110th Congress cosponsored the Teacher Excellence for All Children Act, or TEACH Act, a bill to attract highly effective teachers to the nation's poorest schools.
Introduced in 2007 by then Education Committee Chairman (now Ranking Member) George Miller (D-CA) in the House of Representatives and the late Education Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) in the Senate, along with other cosponsors, the TEACH Act's intent was to increase the supply of excellent teachers, to ensure that children are taught by teachers with expertise in their subject area, to create opportunities for career advancement, to identify and reward the best teachers and to retain the best teachers and principals, particularly in high-need schools. The TEACH Act incorporated many of same core goals as those of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement.
NIET expressed support for the goals of the TEACH Act along with many other national education organizations. Although the TEACH Act was not signed into law before the end of the 110th Congress, Congressman Miller has indicated that he will continue to advocate for the inclusion of many of its provisions in the ESEA reauthorization bill.
Iowa Teacher Leadership and Compensation System
In 2013, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad introduced an education reform package that included a proposal for the Teacher Leadership and Compensation System. Bipartisan legislation subsequently created a four-year process to fully develop this statewide program.
The goals of the system are to attract new teachers, retain effective teachers, promote collaboration, reward professional growth and effective teaching, and improve student achievement through better instruction. The Iowa General Assembly approved $50 million for the 2014-2015 school year, the first year of implementation. An additional $50 million will be available per year through the 2016-2017 school year for a total of $150 million per year.
By the third year, the full funding level will allow all of Iowa's school districts to participate in the system if they so choose. For the 2014-2015 school year, 39 school districts out of 346 will participate in the system as Iowa’s first cohort.
Two Iowa districts that received federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants in 2012 (Saydel and Central Decatur Community School Districts) provide local examples of how to create teacher leadership and compensation systems that align to student academic growth goals. Read more about the districts in this op-ed from the Des Moines Register.
For further information, visit the Iowa Department of Education's Teacher Leadership and Compensation System site.
Texas Educator Excellence Innovation Program
The new Educator Excellence Innovation Program approved by the Texas legislature in 2013 will begin awarding grants to schools with a high percentage of low-income students beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.
Approximately 30 grants are anticipated to be awarded. The purpose of the program will be to fund innovative practices that target the entire timeline of an educator's career. Required practices will include induction and mentoring, evaluation, professional development and collaboration, and strategic compensation and retention. Additional practices could include recruiting and hiring, and career pathways. The total amount of funds for this program is $24 million for the 2014-2016 project period.