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Administration Proposes $5 Billion Competition To Improve Teacher Quality

Using its Race to the Top program as a model, the Obama administration is expected to announce a $5 billion competition designed to improve teacher quality.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will flesh out the plan this afternoon. According to Reuters, which obtained an early version of his remarks, Duncan will argue that the initiative seeks to transform the teaching profession by making it "more selective, offer more consistent training, evaluate teacher effectiveness more critically and reward the best teachers with salaries on par with doctors and lawyers."

"Many of our schools of education are mediocre at best. Many teachers are poorly trained and isolated in their classrooms," Duncan will say according prepared remarks obtained by Reuters. "No other profession carries a greater burden for securing America's future. And no other profession deserves more respect."

The AP reports that the program was included in President Obama's budget, but it will likely have a tough go at it in Congress, where Republicans have in the past complained about the federal government's role in education.

The AP adds:

"A growing body of research shows the big difference that effective teachers can play in student lives, from reducing teenage pregnancies to increasing a student's lifetime earnings. Duncan frequently notes during speeches that within the next decade, about a million baby boomer teachers will retire and quality teachers are needed to fill those spots. Yet, a report from the McKinsey & Co. global consulting firm found that only about a quarter of new teachers come from the top third of their class and said prestige and peer group appeal, along with compensation, were factors influencing whether top college students enter teaching.

"The proposed competition would focus on both improving the quality of the existing teaching force and on better training and recruitment of future teachers. Already, some states are enacting some of the changes the Education Department wants, such as awarding tenure based on teacher performance, instead of primarily on seniority."

The New York Times reports that the Respect (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching) Project will follow the formula for Race to the Top, meaning it will allow states to design their own programs and the Education Department will fund what it believes are the most promising ones. The program is expected to only focus on teaching, while "the Race to the Top program had a broader agenda for kindergarten to 12th-grade education."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.