May 03, 2007

STATEMENT ON THE INTRODUCTION OF THE MASTER TEACHER ACT

Mr. President, as you know, teachers are the most valuable resource when it comes to educating our nation's children. Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) states are required to recruit highly qualified teachers, yet schools in rural or high poverty areas have trouble attracting and retaining these teachers. It is for this reason that Senator Snowe and I have joined together to introduce The Master Teacher Act of 2007.

We have an education problem in America. The schools that most need experienced educators simply do not have the resources to attract and keep the best teachers. We must give our schools the tools they need to prepare our students to succeed.

As currently designated by NCLB, 100 percent of our nation's schools must meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in reading/language arts and mathematics by the 2013/2014 school year. To date, almost 26 percent of schools in the U.S. are not making the grade. According to a report released by the National Education Association last year, fewer schools met AYP in the 2004/2005 school year than the prior school year. In my home state of Maryland, 311 out of 1,429 schools (or almost 22 percent) did not make Adequate Yearly Progress, as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act and the State targets. During the 2005-06 school year, 79 schools, or about 6% of the Maryland's elementary and secondary schools had missed Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) toward State achievement targets for five or more consecutive years. As a result they were placed in restructuring and were subject to a variety of major school-wide reform strategies. A large majority of these restructuring schools are urban schools, and more than half are in the Baltimore City Public School System.

According to research, teacher quality is the schooling factor with the most profound effect on student achievement. Good teachers can make up to a full year's difference in learning growth for students and overwhelm the impact of any other educational investment, including smaller class sizes.

Unfortunately, our educational system pairs the children most behind with teachers who, on average, have less experience, less education, and less skill than those who teach other children. Certainly, there are exceptions, excellent and experienced teachers who have devoted their lives to at-risk students. But the overall patterns are clear.

Despite evidence that teachers become more effective after several years experience, students in high-poverty and high-minority schools are assigned to novice teachers almost twice as often as children in low-poverty schools. Classes in high-poverty and high-minority schools are much more likely to be taught by teachers without a major or minor in the subject they teach. Certainly, there are excellent first-year teachers and ineffective veterans. And indeed, mastery of a subject matter does not necessarily translate into effective teaching. But these proxies for teacher effectiveness are backed by substantial bodies of research. And studies of effective teachers reveal they are distributed among our nation's schools in a manner that actually enlarges achievement gaps.

We will only close student achievement gaps when we improve teacher quality and experience. We must make obtaining advanced training and experience in teaching more accessible and teaching at-risk students more desirable. In short, we must establish a class of "Master Teachers" with extensive experience and training who are willing to teach for an extended period of time in the schools that need them the most.

Fortunately, research also shows even modest monetary incentives lower teacher attrition, especially in high-risk school districts. Our legislation will reward "master teachers" with a 25 percent federal tax exemption on their salary for four years if they agree to teach in a school that is not meeting AYP. A master teacher is a teacher that 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 NCLB, and has obtained advanced certification in their state licensing system. Each state would have a cap of 10% of public school teachers eligible to receive Master Teacher tax treatment at a time. This program would go into effect in 2007 and end with the 2013/2014 school year, when NCLB requires that 100% of students perform at the proficient level.

Mr. President, good teachers are essential to a successful education system; they are the profession charged with educating our future work force. The Master Teacher Act of 2007 will provide our children access to the best possible teachers and our teachers much needed financial support. I ask unanimous consent that a copy of the bill be printed in the Record following my remarks.