June 05, 2007

WE NEED TO GET OUR TOP TEACHERS IN SCHOOLS THAT NEED THEM THE MOST

By Senator Benjamin L. Cardin

Good teachers are the key to a successful education system.   That is because teachers who are well trained and highly qualified can help children who are having trouble learning and understanding the material.   Unfortunately, too many of our schools lack the one critical ingredient that children need to learn -- teachers who can reach them and help them succeed.

 

We have an education problem in America.   The schools that need the most experienced teachers simply do not have the resources to attract and keep them.   Research shows that teacher quality has the most profound effect on student achievement. Good teachers can improve achievement by a full year, a factor that overwhelms the impact of any other educational investment, including smaller class size.

 

I recently introduced the Master Teacher Act, S 1282, to tackle the problem of under-performing schools by attracting highly qualified teachers to these schools.   My legislation would reward what I call "master teachers" by exempting them from paying federal taxes on 25% of their income if they agree to teach in an under-performing school for a four-year period.

 

The legislation defines under-performing schools as ones that fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as defined in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA).   It defines "master teacher" as someone who has at least five years of teaching experience in a public elementary or secondary school, holds a master's degree, meets the definition of Highly Qualified as defined by the NCLBA, and has obtained advanced certification in their state licensing system or is certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards if the state does not have an advanced certification designation.

 

The real tragedy in our education system is that so many of our schools are failing to meet AYP performance standards.   As currently required by the NCLBA, 100% of our nation's students must meet AYP standards in reading, math, and science by the 2013-14 school year.   Currently, 311 of Maryland's 1,420 public schools fail to meet this AYP standard.

 

I think the answer to improving school performance is to ensure that these schools attract and keep experienced, qualified teachers who can serve as a catalyst for change.   One way to encourage teachers to work in under-performing schools is to create an incentive that will financially reward them for taking on such a challenge.

 

            Our future depends on making sure all our children have the education to compete and succeed.   Our nation's strength rests with the success of our educational system. We must provide our teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed.