Will K-12 Policy Leaders Soon Reemphasize Teacher Quality Requirements?

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In recent years education leaders in the Obama Administration have made professional development for K-12 teachers and principals a primary focus of school reform efforts. Many of the largest federal grant programs—including Title I, A; Race to the Top; School Improvement Grants; Investing in Innovation; and particularly Title II, A—emphasize evaluating and improving teacher quality as a key goal for schools and districts.

Last August the Department of Education (DoE) released guidelines for the upcoming (2014-2015) round of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver renewals, directly linking approval to teacher quality (among other requirements).  States applying for a flexibility extension would have to outline:

  • A plan to ensure that all Title II, A funds for professional development would be used for evidence-based programs and linked to new college- and career-ready standards.
  • A plan to ensure an equitable distribution of quality teaching for students of all races and income levels.

Only four states—Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, and West Virginia—already have NCLB flexibility through 2015.  Among the remaining states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico), all but eight have previously received waivers.  The August mandates would have been felt nationwide because most states are expected to request a waiver extension for the 2014-2015 school year.

But the DoE backtracked in November, announcing that those two teacher quality requirements would not be linked to extension approvals after all.  In their stead, the DoE spoke vaguely of a 50-state strategy for teacher quality that would sit outside the confines of waiver applications. EdWeek reported at the time of the announcement that the undisclosed plan’s roll-out was slated to begin by the end of January this year.

So What Does It Mean For You?

We recommend that professional development sales teams not get caught flatfooted by upcoming funding requirements that the DoE may announce at any time in the coming weeks.  While the recent change of direction offers a small reprieve from the evidence-based and standards-linked requirements, we suspect that it will be a short one.

With tighter competition for each sale and increased oversight at the local, state, and federal levels, the need for efficacy evidence is here to stay.  Large federal grant programs like Investing in Innovation and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act already incorporate efficacy evidence into the decision process.  Even when it is not officially required, strong, statistical evidence of your product’s impact can be the difference between making the sale and not.

Companies offering K-12 professional development products and services should therefore take advantage of the current lull. By putting in the extra time now, you can prepare your team to sell confidently and successfully in the future:

  • Review which existing marketplace products and services can be funded using Title II, A monies. Typically, these are professional development programs that improve teacher quality, school leadership, and instructional strategies. (Learn more about Title II, A in our white paper introducing the major federal grants.)
  • Highlight how these offerings are linked to college- and career-ready standards.
  • Strengthen the position of your own solutions by compiling records of their evidence-based results.  You likely have this material available internally; however, it may not currently be packaged into datasheets and marketing collateral.
  • Update your messaging to match the new requirements.  Communicate the positioning to your sales representatives as well as your customers.

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