K-12 Teacher Quality: Issues and Legislative Action
K-12 Teacher Quality:
Issues and Legislative Action
Updated March 21, 2008
Jeffrey J. Kuenzi
Specialist in Education Policy
Domestic Social Policy Division
K-12 Teacher Quality: Issues and Legislative Action
The quality of elementary and secondary school teachers is increasingly
recognized as a critical element in improving education. Policymakers seeking to
address teacher quality face many serious challenges. Among these challenges are
the lack of consensus on what makes a teacher effective, the vast size and
decentralized organization of K-12 education, and problems with teacher supply and
The federal government is not responsible for the preparation, hiring, and work
life of teachers; these responsibilities rest with states and localities. Nevertheless, the
federal government, primarily through the U.S. Department of Education (ED),
provides substantial resources to strengthen the K-12 teaching force.
Recently, the focus of federal support has expanded beyond in-service training
to include greater emphasis on teacher preparation, recruitment, and hiring. Further,
the federal government is attempting to strengthen accountability for teacher quality.
There is continuing interest in providing broad, flexible assistance coupled with
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-110) reauthorized the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), replacing the Eisenhower
Professional Development program and the Class Size Reduction program with a
single formula grant program supporting an array of activities to improve the
elementary and secondary teaching force. In addition, among other provisions, the
reauthorized ESEA includes a separate program of math and science partnerships to
improve teaching in those fields.
In amending the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act also established
requirements that K-12 teachers be “highly qualified” and set deadlines for when
those requirements had to be met. These highly qualified teacher requirements have
generated questions about their implementation, some of which ED has sought to
address through regulations and non-regulatory guidance.
The Higher Education Act (HEA) authorizes funding to improve K-12 teacher
preparation programs in higher education institutions. It includes accountability
provisions for the quality of the graduates from these programs. It also supports
efforts to increase teacher recruitment.
Both the ESEA and HEA may be considered for reauthorization by the 110th
Congress. This report tracks major legislative action regarding K-12 teachers as it
Teachers at the Center..............................................1
Identifying What Makes a Teacher Effective.........................1
K-12 Organization and Size......................................2
Teacher Supply and Demand.....................................2
Teacher Preparation and Professional Development...................3
Changing Federal Role..........................................4
Selected Major Programs............................................6
ESEA as Amended by the No Child Left Behind Act..................6
Requirement That All Teachers Be Highly Qualified..............6
Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund..............9
Mathematics and Science Partnerships........................10
Other ESEA Programs and Activities.........................11
Higher Education Act..........................................13
Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants.........................13
Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology.............13
Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow........................14
Student Loan Forgiveness..................................14
K-12 Teacher Quality:
Issues and Legislative Action
Since the early 1980s, educators and policymakers at all levels have sought to
improve the quality of public K-12 education. Despite these efforts, many remain
concerned about the performance of today’s schools and students. Throughout this
process, a recurrent objective has been improvement of the public K-12 teaching
force. The attention being paid to teacher quality has risen dramatically in recent
years. This was particularly true as the Congress reauthorized the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2002. It remains true today and may be part of
the process of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). The HEA authorizes
several programs to improve K-12 teacher preparation and recruitment.
This report provides a brief overview of some of the most salient issues
regarding the K-12 teaching force, describes the current federal role in this area,
describes major federal programs, and tracks major legislative action by the
Congress. It will be updated as major action occurs.
Teachers at the Center
Many education reformers have long recognized the importance of improving
the K-12 teaching force while, concurrently, marshaling teachers’ support for the
process of reform. The increasing focus on teacher quality has been fueled by several
recent analyses concluding that, among all school-based factors, teacher quality is the
most important; that some teachers are much more effective than others with similar
students; and that teacher quality may specially affect the achievement of
Policymakers face many serious challenges in their efforts to improve teacher
quality. Some of these challenges are considered briefly below.
Identifying What Makes a Teacher Effective
Although some research has found certain teacher attributes positively related
to student achievement, such as verbal ability, subject matter knowledge, pedagogical
knowledge, years of experience, and certification status, there is no consensus on
what makes a teacher effective. Nevertheless, policymakers are focusing on
improving certain of these attributes, particularly subject matter knowledge and
certification status, in an effort to increase the likelihood that teachers will be
effective with their students.
K-12 Organization and Size
The organization and size of the public K-12 educational enterprise poses a
significant challenge to teacher quality improvement. Some 3 million teachers are
employed in more than 89,000 schools located in some 14,800 school districts. This
is a decentralized system; states and localities have legal and administrative
responsibility for K-12 education. The recruitment, hiring, compensation, and
retention of teachers are matters typically controlled by districts and, in part, schools
and states. Teacher preparation generally takes place in higher education institutions.
Teacher assignments and evaluations are often the domain of schools. Teacher
certification and tenure are the province of states.
Teacher Supply and Demand
It may be difficult in the coming decade to raise K-12 teacher quality when
concerns about teacher quantity are growing. Warnings of a potential shortage of
teachers abound, precipitated by projected increases in student enrollment and an
anticipated surge in retirements. This has prompted states and localities to initiate
many recruitment efforts.
Some analysts question whether a rising demand for teachers necessarily
portends a shortage. They point out that teaching can draw from a large reserve pool
(those who might be newly drawn into teaching and those who have taught but are
no longer teaching), and that teacher preparation programs prepare more individuals
for teaching than go into teaching. Also, many teachers leave the profession early in
their careers. Efforts to stem this attrition may help address supply issues and raise
teacher quality (reportedly leavers may be higher academic performers than stayers).
State certification standards governing who can teach clearly contribute to the
quality of the teaching force, as well as to the number of individuals available for
teaching. Some critics of current certification practices call for a very substantial
raising of standards, a call which some states have heeded. Other critics of current
certification complain that raising the certification hurdles can impose unreasonable
barriers to the entry of potentially high quality teachers, particularly mid-career
changers, or may prompt districts to circumvent these requirements. Many observers
assert that teacher quality and quantity may be served under well-designed
alternatives to traditional certification, though some analysts warn that poorly
designed alternative certification may create a “backdoor” into teaching for
Another major challenge for policymakers is reducing the extent to which
teachers are currently teaching out-of-field, that is, teaching classes for which they
have inadequate content knowledge. In 1999-2000, over a fifth of secondary school
students took at least one class from a teacher who neither majored nor minored in
that subject in college; over a third received instruction in at least one class from a
teacher who was not certified in the subject taught and did not have a major in that
subject.1 Out-of-field teaching assignments are a function of many local, primarily
school-based, factors. How to change these practices and policies is an open
question, as is the impact of such action on the supply of qualified teachers.
Teacher Preparation and Professional Development
Efforts to address the quality of the teaching force often look to the preservice
training process and to professional development (i.e., in-service training) for current
teachers. There is concern that graduates of teacher education institutions are
inadequately prepared to teach to high standards. Some states are holding these
institutions accountable for the quality of their graduates; these institutions are taking
steps to strengthen their programs.
Traditionally, professional development has been delivered to current teachers
in a sporadic and uncoordinated fashion. Efforts to improve professional
development are being undertaken with the goal of remedying the academic and
pedagogic deficiencies of current teachers, a daunting task given the magnitude of
the teaching force.
Reform of teacher compensation is a frequent element in initiatives to improve
K-12 teacher quality (see CRS Report RL30217, Performance-Based Pay for
Teachers). It is argued that highly qualified individuals are dissuaded from entering
or staying in teaching because current compensation is not competitive and does not
reward quality. Past compensation reforms have generally been short-lived, partly
because it has proven difficult to address concerns about whether different pay
schedules, particularly merit based pay systems, can be implemented objectively,
fairly, and consistently. Some compensation reform may be particularly expensive
Some educators and policymakers see state tenure laws as a substantial
challenge to teacher quality improvement. To its critics, tenure protects incompetent
teachers, creating a dismissal process that is too costly and time consuming. To its
defenders, tenure protects K-12 teachers from arbitrary, biased, and unfair dismissal,
and may provide for a stable workforce. States have been reforming tenure by, for
example, extending the period in which beginning teachers can be evaluated and
dismissed, expanding the reasons for dismissal, and creating time limits for the
1 “Quality Counts 2003: Ensuring a Highly Qualified Teacher for Every Classroom,”
Education Week, January 9, 2003.
The vast majority of teachers are members of teachers’ unions. Critics have
posited that the major teachers’ unions have been substantially more interested in job
protection and higher salaries than in improving the quality of the teaching force.
Union proponents point to examples of cooperation with different reform efforts,
including steps to assist underperforming teachers and to remove teachers who do
not make necessary improvements. Nevertheless, as reform efforts increasingly
focus on teacher quality, the challenges to union policies and practices are likely to
The federal government is not responsible for preparing, recruiting, certifying,
compensating, testing, tenuring, and structuring the working conditions of K-12
teachers; these responsibilities rest with states and localities. Traditionally, these
areas have been viewed as largely outside the reach of the federal government.
Nevertheless, over the past several years, the federal government has become
increasing involved in issues of teacher quality and quantity.
The federal government funds many programs supporting K-12 teaching. Some
of these are explicitly targeted to teachers; others with a broader focus nevertheless
support such activities as teacher training. Over the past several years, the Congress
has been redefining the federal role relative to targeted support of K-12 teachers.
Although federal aid in this area comes from multiple federal agencies, ED is
the primary source. Some $3.4 billion of the Department’s FY2008 appropriation
was spent on activities directed specifically to K-12 teachers. This funding includes,
among other programs, $2.94 billion for the Principal and Teacher Training and
Recruiting Fund, $14.4 million for the Troops-to-Teachers and $43.7 million for the
Transition to Teaching programs, and $33.7 million for the Higher Education Act’s
Teacher Quality Enhancement program (all of these programs are described below).
Significant levels of funding also support teachers under other programs that are not
targeted to teachers (e.g., the ESEA Title I program).
Changing Federal Role
The No Child Left Behind Act marked a significant shift in the federal role with
regard to K-12 teachers and teaching, but, in some ways, it is the most recent in a
series of congressional actions modifying that federal role. These changes in the
federal role are described below.
Immediately prior to the 105th Congress, federal aid for K-12 teaching was
largely focused on in-service training, with limited funding for preservice trainingth
and recruitment. The 105 Congress began a change in this focus by enacting
amendments in 1998 to the Higher Education Act (HEA) that included the Teacher
Quality Enhancement program. Significantly, these amendments also had broad-
based accountability requirements for teacher education programs (see CRS Report
RL31254, Pass Rates as an Accountability Measure for Teacher Education
Programs, by James B. Seedman and Bonnie F. Mangan). Funded states and their
higher education institutions are now required to report publicly on teacher
preparation, including the pass rates of graduates on certification assessments. States
must identify low-performing teacher preparation programs. If low-performing
programs lose state approval or financing, their institutions cannot receive
professional development funding from ED and cannot accept or enroll any HEA-
aided student in the teacher education program.
In an effort to improve student performance, the 105th Congress also
appropriated funding for the general hiring of new, qualified teachers to reduce class
size. The program was appropriated funding for three fiscal years ($1.2 billion for
FY1999, $1.3 billion for FY2000 and $1.623 billion for FY2001). This program
broke new ground with its explicit and primary focus on federal support for the hiring
of teachers. Further, until enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, this program
and the Eisenhower Professional Development program (Title II of the ESEA under
prior law) had been the two largest federal initiatives targeting support to K-12
teachers and teaching. The Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund in
the reauthorized ESEA replaced those two programs and is the largest single source
of federal support directed to K-12 teaching.
The 106th Congress continued this redefinition of the federal role in this area.
For FY2001, the Congress specified that appropriated amounts for the Eisenhower
program above the FY2000 level ($335 million) were to be spent on such activities
as reducing the percentage of teachers without certification or with emergency or
provisional certification, the percentage teaching out of field, or the percentage
lacking requisite content knowledge. These excess funds could also be directed to
such other activities as mentoring for new teachers, multi-week institutes providing
professional development, and retention efforts for teachers with a record of
increasing low-income students’ academic achievement. Among other new money
for teachers approved in the FY2001 appropriations for ED was $3 million for the
Troops-to-Teachers program (supporting entry of former military personnel into
teaching), available for transfer from ED to the Department of Defense;2 and $31
million for new teacher recruitment activities targeting mid-career professionals in
other occupations and highly qualified recent college graduates with BAs in fields
other than education.
The 107th Congress further expanded the federal role in issues of teacher quality
and quantity. On January 8, 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was signed
into law (P.L. 107-110). In amending and reauthorizing the ESEA, this legislation
authorized federal support for a broad array of activities to improve K-12 teaching,
ranging from recruitment to hiring to retention. It more firmly focused federal
interest on teacher quality by, for example, requiring all core academic subject
2 P.L. 106-65 (National Defense Authorization Act for FY2000), signed on October 5, 1999,
transferred the Troops to Teachers program from the Defense and Transportation
Departments to the Education Department.
teacher to be “highly qualified.” The programs and provisions added to the ESEA
by the No Child Left Behind Act are described in the following section.
Selected Major Programs
This section provides descriptions of the major federal programs addressing K-
12 teaching. Its primary focus is on the programs in the ESEA as amended by the No
Child Left Behind Act.
ESEA as Amended by the No Child Left Behind Act
In amending and reauthorizing the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act
continued ESEA Title II as the primary title for teacher programs. The major
teacher-related provisions in Title II and elsewhere in the ESEA are described below.
Requirement That All Teachers Be Highly Qualified. Each state
educational agency (SEA) receiving ESEA Title I, Part A funding (compensatory
education of disadvantaged students) must have a plan to ensure that, by no later than
the end of the 2005-2006 school year, all teachers teaching in core academic subjects
within the state will meet the definition of a highly qualified teacher.
To be highly qualified, a public elementary or secondary school teacher must
meet the following requirements:
!Every public elementary or secondary school teacher, regardless of
whether he or she is new or experienced, (1) must have full state
certification (a charter school teacher must meet the requirements in
the state charter school law), (2) must not have had any certification
requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional
basis, and (3) must have at least a BA.
!Each new public elementary school teacher must pass a rigorous
state test demonstrating subject knowledge and teaching skills in
reading, writing, math, and other basic elementary school curricular
areas (such tests may include state certification exams in these
!Each new public middle or secondary school teacher must
demonstrate a high level of competency in all subjects taught by (1)
passing rigorous state academic tests in those subjects (may include
state certification exams in those subjects), or (2) completing an
academic major (or equivalent course work), graduate degree, or
advanced certification in each subject taught.
!Each experienced public elementary, middle, or secondary school
teacher must meet (1) the requirements just described for a new
teacher (depending upon his or her level of instruction), or (2)
demonstrate competency in all subjects taught using a “high
objective uniform state standard of evaluation” (HOUSSE).3
As part of this plan, each Title I-funded state must establish annual measurable
objectives for each local educational agency (LEA) and school that, at a minimum,
include annual increases in the percentage of highly qualified teachers at each LEA
and school to ensure that the 2005-2006 deadline is met, and an annual increase in
the percentage of teachers receiving high quality professional development.
Each LEA receiving Title I Part A funding must have a plan to ensure that all
of its teachers are highly qualified by the 2005-2006 deadline. In addition, beginning
with the first day of the 2002-2003 school year, any LEA receiving Title I funding
must ensure that all teachers hired after that date who are teaching in Title I-
supported programs are highly qualified.
States and LEAs must publicly issue annual reports describing progress on the
Questions have been raised about the scope of the application of these
requirements, the meaning of some of the requirements, and the ability of different
kinds of districts to meet them. ED has sought to address some of these concerns
through regulation, non-regulatory guidance, and other means. Early in the
implementation of these provisions it was asked whether they apply to all teachers,
including vocational education teachers, special education teachers, or others not
teaching core academic subjects. Final regulations for the Title I program published
December 2, 2002, in the Federal Register apply these requirements only to core
academic subject teachers. ED noted that these requirements would apply to a
vocational education teacher or a special education teacher providing instruction in
a core academic subject.
The final regulations also clarify that a teacher in an alternative certification
program will have a maximum of three years in which to become fully certified
without being in violation of the highly qualified requirements regarding
certification. This allowance is made only for a teacher in an alternative certification
program who is receiving high quality professional development, intensive
supervision, and making satisfactory progress toward full certification.
In March 2004, ED announced that additional flexibility could be applied in the
implementation of these requirements with regard to teachers in small rural school
districts, to science teachers, and to teachers teaching multiple subjects.4 In small
3 Among requirements, the state-set HOUSSE must provide objective information about
teachers’ content knowledge in all subjects taught; be aligned with challenging state
academic and student achievement standards; be applied uniformly statewide to all teachers
in the same subjects and grade levels; and consider, but not be based primarily on, time
teaching those subjects. It may use multiple measures of teacher competency.
4 A two-page fact sheet on these new policies is available at [http://www.ed.gov/nclb/
methods/teachers/hqtflexibility.html]. A more detailed letter to each of the chief state
rural districts, ED now provides that teachers teaching core academic subjects who
meet the highly qualified requirements in at least one of the subject areas they teach
may have an additional three years to meet these requirements in the other subjects
they might teach. For current teachers, this three-year grace period begins with the
2004-2005 school year, meaning that rather than facing a deadline of the end of the
2005-2006 school year to be highly qualified in all core subjects taught, current rural
teachers may have until the end of the 2006-2007 school year. For newly hired
teachers, a full three-year grace period can be provided from the date of hiring. But
those newly hired teachers will have to be highly qualified in one of their core subject
areas when hired. States decide whether to offer this flexibility to eligible rural
The flexibility announced in March modifies non-regulatory guidance issued in
January, 2004, by ED for the teacher program under ESEA Title II, which stated that
science teachers teaching more than one field of science (e.g., biology and chemistry)
would have to be highly qualified in each of the fields being taught.5 Under the new
flexibility, states determine whether science teachers need to be highly qualified in
each science field they teach or highly qualified in science in general, based on how
the state currently certifies teachers in these subject areas. States may also design
their HOUSSE procedures to allow a teacher to go through the process a single time
to demonstrate competency in multiple subjects.
In an October 21, 2005, policy letter to chief state school officers, the Secretary
announced that its purpose was “to assure you that States that do not quite reach the
100 percent goal by the end of the 2005-06 school year will not lose federal funds if
they are implementing the law and making a good-faith effort to reach the HQT goal
in NCLB as soon as possible.”6 Instead, states that “meet the law’s requirements and
the Department’s expectations in these areas but fall short of having highly qualified
teachers in every classroom” would be given an additional year to reach the 100 goal.
The most recently published data on meeting the HQT goal became available
in January of 2008. As part of the congressionally mandated assessment of NCLB,
the Department’s Institute for Educational Sciences found that “91 percent of classes
were taught by highly qualified teachers in 2004-05.” Two additional findings from
the study are (1) students in schools that have been identified for improvement were
more likely to be taught by teachers who said they were not highly qualified than
were students in non-identified schools, and (2) among teachers who said they were
highly qualified under NCLB, those in high-poverty schools had less experience and
school officers, dated March 31, 2004, is available at [http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/
5 The ESEA Title II guidance, dated January 16, 2004, is available at [http://www.ed.gov/
6 The Secretary’s letter is available online at [http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/
were more likely to be teaching out-of-field compared with their peers in low-poverty
Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund. ESEA Title II,
Part A replaced the Eisenhower and CSR programs with a new state formula grant
program authorized at $3.175 billion for FY2002 and such sums as may be necessary8
for the 5 succeeding fiscal years. The FY2008 appropriation is $2.94 billion.
State Allocation Formula. The allocation formula for Title II Part A
provides each state with a base guarantee of funding equal to the amount it received
for FY2001 under the Eisenhower and CSR programs. Any excess funding is
allocated by formula among the states based 35% on school-aged population (5-17)
and 65% on school-aged population in poverty. Each state is assured 0.5% of this
excess. At the state level, 95% of the state grant is to be distributed as subgrants to
LEAs, 2.5% for local partnerships (the Secretary calculates an alternative percentage
if 2.5% of the state grant would generate a total for all states in excess of $125
million for partnerships), and the remainder for state activities.
LEA Subgrants. LEA subgrant funding is distributed first as a base guarantee
of the FY2001 Eisenhower and CSR grants to individual districts, with the remainder
distributed by formula based 20% on school-aged population and 80% on school-
aged population in poverty.
LEAs are authorized to use their funding for one or more of various specified
activities. Among the authorized activities are the following: assistance to schools
in the recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers (see definition above),
principals, and, under certain conditions, pupil services personnel; assistance in
recruiting and hiring highly qualified teachers through such means as scholarships
and signing bonuses; use of these teachers to reduce class sizes; initiatives to increase
retention of highly qualified teachers and principals, particularly in schools with high
percentages of low-achieving students, through mentoring, induction services during
the initial three years of service, and financial incentives for those effectively serving
all students; professional development, including professional development that
involves technology in teaching and curriculum and professional development
delivered through technology; improvement of the quality of the teaching force
through such activities as tenure reform, merit pay, and teacher testing in their subject
areas; and professional development for principals and superintendents.
Partnership Subgrants. These funds are awarded competitively to
partnerships that must include a higher education institution and its division
preparing teachers and principals; a higher education school of arts and sciences; and
a high need LEA (defined as one with at least 10,000 poor children or a child poverty
rate of at least 20% that, in addition, has either a high percentage of out-of-field
teachers or a high percentage of teachers with emergency, provisional, or temporary
7 U.S. Department of Education, National Assessment of Title I: Final Report, January 3,
8 This authority was automatically extended through FY2008 under the General Education
Provisions Act (20 USC 1226a).
certificates). Other entities, such as charter schools or another LEA, may be part of
these partnerships. Partnerships must use their funds for professional development
in the core academic subjects for teachers, highly qualified paraprofessionals, and
State Activities. States must use their funding for one or more of several
specified activities. Among these activities are the following: teacher and principal
certification reform; mentoring and intensive professional development for teachers
and principals, including those new to their careers; assistance to LEAs and schools
in the recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers, principals, and, under
certain conditions, pupil services personnel; tenure reform; subject matter testing for
teachers; projects to promote teacher and principal certification reciprocity across
states; training to help teachers integrate technology into the curriculum and
instruction; assistance to help teachers become highly qualified by the end of the
fourth year of state funding; and a clearinghouse for teacher recruitment and
Accountability. If, after the second year of the plan to ensure that all teacher
are highly qualified (see above), an LEA has failed to make progress toward the
annual objectives in such plan, it must develop an improvement plan. Failure after9
the third year coupled with failure to make adequate yearly progress for three
consecutive years requires the SEA to identify the professional development the LEA
will use and, generally, precludes use of Title I Part A funds for the hiring of
paraprofessionals. In addition, the SEA provides funding directly to schools in the
LEA to enable their teachers to choose their own professional development activities.
National Activities. The Secretary of Education is authorized to use national
activities funding for several specific activities. Authorized activities include a
national teacher recruitment campaign, which may include activities through a
national teacher recruitment clearinghouse, to help high need LEAs recruit and train
teachers and to conduct a national public service campaign about the resources and
routes into teaching; a national principal recruitment program of competitive grants
to help high need LEAs; support for advanced certification of teachers, including
grants to entities to develop teacher standards, and to encourage teachers to pursue
advanced certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards or
the National Council on Teacher Quality, among others; a grant to the University of
Northern Colorado to help other higher education institutions train special education
teachers; a program to support professional development of early childhood
educators; and a national panel on teacher mobility to study ways of facilitating the
mobility of highly qualified teachers. National activities funding is at such sums as
may be necessary for FY2002 and the 5 succeeding fiscal years.
Mathematics and Science Partnerships. Title II Part B authorizes
funding for partnerships to improve math and science instruction. An eligible
partnership must include an SEA (if funds are awarded competitively), the
9 For information on adequate yearly progress under the reauthorized ESEA, see CRS
Report RL31487, Education for the Disadvantaged: Overview of ESEA Title I-A
Amendments Under the No Child Left Behind Act, by Wayne Riddle.
engineering, mathematics, or science department of a higher education institution,
and a high need LEA. Other entities such as LEAs and charter schools may be
included as well. The annual authorization of appropriations is $450 million for
FY2002 and such sums as may be necessary for the next 5 fiscal years.10 When the
annual appropriation is less than $100 million, the program’s three-year grants are
awarded competitively; otherwise, funds are awarded to SEAs based on school-aged
population in poverty with a 0.5% small state minimum. The FY2008 appropriation
is $179 million.
Partnerships must use their grants for one or more of several specific activities.
Among them are the following: professional development to improve math and
science teachers’ subject knowledge; activities to promote strong teaching skills
among these teachers and teacher educators; math and science summer workshops
or institutes with academic year followup; recruitment of math, science, or
engineering majors to teaching through signing and performance incentives, stipends
for alternative certification, and scholarships for advanced course work; development
or redesign of more rigorous, standards-aligned math and science curricula; distance
learning programs for math and science teachers; and opportunities for math and
science teachers to have contact with working mathematicians, scientists, and
The Secretary is to consult and coordinate activities with the Director of the
NSF, particularly regarding the appropriate roles of the two entities in workshops,
institutes, and partnerships.
Each partnership must have an evaluation and accountability plan that includes
objectives measuring the impact of the funded activities. Among these objectives
must be improvement of student achievement on state math and science assessments.
NSF’s Mathematics and Science Partnership Program. The NSF has
been implementing a Mathematics and Science Partnership program as well,
authorized by the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002. The
FY2007 level is approximately $46 million. This is a competitive grant program
involving 3 kinds of activities: partnerships between higher education institutions
and local school districts, projects focusing on research and evaluation of these
efforts and technical assistance, and partnerships supporting teacher institutes.
Other ESEA Programs and Activities. The ESEA authorizes a number
of other programs and activities targeting K-12 teachers and teaching. Some of these
are highlighted below.
Troops-to-Teachers. Title II Part C, Subpart 1, Chapter A authorizes
funding and administration of the Troops-to-Teachers program, an effort to facilitate
the movement of members of the armed forces into K-12 teaching. This legislation
authorizes the Secretary of Education to enter into a memorandum of agreement with
the Department of Defense for the actual administration of the program, which was
10 This authority was automatically extended through FY2008 under the General Education
Provisions Act (20 USC 1226a).
first enacted in the FY1993 Defense Authorization Act. The program assists eligible
members of the armed forces to become certified as elementary or secondary school
teachers or vocational technical teachers. A single authorization of appropriations
of $150 million for FY2002 and such sums as may be necessary for the next 5 fiscal
years is provided for the Troops-to-Teachers program and the Transition to Teaching
program (see below), of which the Secretary is to reserve not more than $30 million
in FY2002 for the Troops-to-Teachers program.11 The FY2008 appropriation
provides $14.4 million for this program.
Transition to Teaching. This is a continuation of a program to recruit mid-
career professionals and others to teaching that was first initiated through the
Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001. Under this ESEA authority (Title II Part
C, Subpart 1, Chapter B), the Secretary of Education may competitively award five-
year grants to SEAs, high need LEAs, higher education institutions in partnership
with SEAs or high need LEAs, among others, for the establishment of state and local
“teacher corps” projects. These projects are to recruit highly qualified mid-career
professionals, highly qualified paraprofessionals, and recent college graduates to
teach in high need schools. Among the activities these programs can support are
financial incentives effective at retaining teachers in high need schools in high need
LEAs; pre- and post-placement support such as mentoring; payments for the costs of
hiring these teachers or subsidies to participants; and state or regional clearinghouses
for recruitment and placement. Participating teachers are to be placed in high need
schools in high need LEAs with a priority on schools in areas with the highest
percentages of low-income students. Participants have a three-year service
commitment. Projects failing to make substantial progress by the end of their third
year toward goals and objectives established in their applications have their grants
revoked. The FY2008 appropriations legislation provides $43.7 million for this
Teacher Incentive Fund. The Teacher Incentive Fund was authorized
through the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and
Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-149). This program awards
competitive grants to LEAs, States, or partnerships to develop and implement
performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools.
These systems must consider gains in student academic achievement as well as
classroom evaluations among other factors and provide educators with incentives to
take on additional responsibilities and leadership roles. Five percent of such funds
are reserved for technical assistance, training, peer review of applications, program
outreach, and evaluation activities. The FY2008 appropriation provides $97.3
million for this program.
Teacher Liability. The No Child Left Behind Act included the Paul D.
Coverdell Teacher Protection Act of 2001, which provides liability protection to
school employees (including teachers, administrators, and school board members)
acting to control, discipline, expel, or suspend a student or to maintain order in the
classroom or school.
11 This authority was automatically extended through FY2008 under the General Education
Provisions Act (20 USC 1226a).
Higher Education Act
The HEA addresses K-12 teacher issues through a program funding
improvement of teacher preparation and recruitment, a program to increase new
teachers’ ability to use technology, as well as provisions in its student loan programs
that offer special forgiveness of outstanding debt for individuals entering certain
kinds of K-12 teaching.
Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants. Title II of the Higher Education
Act authorizes the Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants program. The program
includes three kinds of grant programs — state grants, partnership grants, and teacher
recruitment grants — targeting improvement in K-12 teacher preparation and
recruitment. Each of these grants is awarded competitively. The annual
appropriation is to be divided 45% to state grants, 45% to partnership grants, and
eligible partnerships. The FY2008 appropriation for these grants is $33.7 million.
As noted previously, this legislation includes a series of accountability
provisions that essentially apply to all teacher preparation programs in the country.
These provisions seek to hold teacher preparation programs accountable for the
knowledge and skills of their graduates. In doing so, they require institutions and
states to report on the rates at which teacher education graduates pass teacher
certification exams, and require states to develop and implement procedures for
identifying teacher education programs as low-performing. Any higher education
institution with a teacher preparation program that loses state approval or financial
support because of its designation by the state as a low-performing program is
ineligible for any professional development funding from ED, and cannot accept or
enroll in its teacher preparation program any student receiving assistance under HEA
Title IV. These accountability requirements are delineated in CRS Report RL31254,
Pass Rates as an Accountability Measure for Teacher Education Programs, by
James B. Seedman and Bonnie F. Mangan. The HEA Title II program and the status
of reauthorization are described in CRS Report RL31882, Teacher Quality
Enhancement Grants (Title II, Part A of the Higher Education Act): Overview and
Reauthorization Issues, by Jeffrey J. Kuenzi and Bonnie F. Mangan.
Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology. This program,
also authorized by HEA Title II,13 supports the training of prospective teachers to use
advanced technology in their teaching. It authorizes the Secretary of Education to
fund consortia, each including at least one higher education institution that prepares
individuals for teaching, one SEA or LEA, and one or more of other entities, such as
higher education institutions, higher education schools of education, higher education
schools of arts and sciences, museums, foundations, etc. Federal funds are provided
in the form of matching grants. There are authorized to be appropriated such sums
as may be necessary for FY2002 and for FY2003.
12 The required 45-45-10 split was overridden by the FY2005 appropriations legislation (P.L.
13 The program was transferred from the ESEA to the HEA by the No Child Left Behind
TEACH Grants. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (P.L.
110-84) authorized the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher
Education (TEACH) grant program, which provides scholarships worth $4,000 a year
for prospective teachers. Eligible recipients must be high-achieving undergraduate,
post-baccalaureate, and graduate students who commit to teaching a high-need
subject in a high-need elementary or secondary school for four years. High-need
subjects include mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual education, special
education, and reading. High-need schools are those located in an LEA that is
eligible for ESEA Title I funds. The FY2008 appropriation provides $58 million for
Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow. The America COMPETES Act
of 2007 (P.L. 110-69) authorized two new programs to improve K-12 teaching: (1)
a Baccalaureate Degrees program that encourages STEM majors to concurrently
obtain teaching certification and (2) a Master’s Degrees program to upgrade the skills
of current teachers through two to three years of part-time study or to support
one-year programs to bring STEM professionals into teaching. The FY2008
appropriation provides $0.983 million for each of these programs.
Student Loan Forgiveness.14 The HEA currently provides for the
repayment of Federal Perkins Loans and Federal Stafford Loans for individuals
entering certain fields of K-12 teaching for specified periods of time. For Perkins
Loans, up to 100% of the borrower’s outstanding Perkins debt can be forgiven over
a five-year period for full-time teaching in a Title I school, full-time service as a
special education teacher, or full-time teaching of math, science, foreign language,
bilingual education or other subjects identified by individual states as areas of teacher
Stafford Loan debt can be forgiven for individuals teaching in low-income
elementary or secondary schools who are new borrowers on or after October 1,
1998.15 To be eligible for repayment, borrowers have to teach on a full-time basis for
five consecutive years in a Title I school. After completion of that service, up to
$5,000 in Stafford Loan debt can be forgiven. Math, science, and special education
teachers in low-income schools are eligible for relief of up to $17,500 in Stafford
14 For additional information on federal student loan forgiveness programs, see CRS Report
RS22762, Loan Forgiveness for Public Service Employees Under the William D. Ford
Direct Loan Program, by David P. Smole, and CRS Report RL32516, Student Loan
Forgiveness Programs, by Gail McCallion.
15 A new borrower is someone who, when he or she borrowed under the program on or after
October 1, 1998, had no outstanding Stafford Loan balance incurred prior to that date.
Teachers may take an above-the-line deduction from their federal taxable
income of up to $250 a year for classroom expenses (including those for books,
supplies, computer equipment, other equipment, and supplementary materials used
in the classroom) incurred by teachers and others in schools.16
16 CRS Report RS21682, The Tax Deduction for Classroom Expenses of Elementary and
Secondary School Teachers, by Linda Levine.