Research has consistently shown that the two most important school-based factors affecting a child’s academic success are the classroom teacher and the school principal.
"We know that from the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents—it is the teacher standing at the front of the classroom," says Arne Duncan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
Duncan's remarks are part of the Department of Education's blueprint (PDF) for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
ESEA reauthorization has made teacher effectiveness and leadership the most important topic in education reform discussions.
Moving From Highly Qualified to Highly Effective
For most of the last decade, NCLB specified that all students should have highly qualified teachers: teachers who meet the most basic qualifications to enter the classroom. However, Secretary Duncan and President Barack Obama believe teacher credentials and subject matter competency barely scratch the surface of what makes an effective teacher.
The president has committed his administration to funding highly effective teachers, who elicit growth in student achievement and receive comprehensive support at all stages of their careers—from preparation and induction to ongoing professional development.
Learn how Race to the Top is promoting effective teaching and leading.
Supporting Educator Professional Development
Teachers and administrators struggle to make time for quality professional development. That's why schools need
- Ongoing, capacity-building professional development to keep effective educators in the profession;
- Opportunities for teachers to assume differentiated roles, such as instructional curriculum leaders, coaches, and mentors; and
- Recognition programs, including locally determined incentive and merit-pay programs tied to educator effectiveness.