Brookings released a report calling for a national corps of teachers—a new federal program estimated to cost about $200 million per year to support about 19,000 teachers. The idea behind “America’s Teacher Corps” is to give recognition, more money ($10,000 annually) and a portable credential to teachers who have shown strong performance based on a strong evaluation system and accept teaching positions in high-poverty Title I schools (they would not need to take any more coursework or any additional exams).What’s different is that the goal of the ATC is not to reward good teaching and attract more teachers to teaching, although these are hoped for and expected outcomes, but to improve evaluation systems. The theory is that teachers who are not eligible for ATC, those who can’t show the requisite “sustained superior performance” because they work in districts without established evaluation systems, will push for better teacher evaluation systems in their own districts. Add to this a leadership component (like the principal corps we proposed a couple of years ago) to ensure that ATC teachers are in schools where they can continue to succeed, and this seems like a decent plan for spreading good teachers to places that need them.
Speaking of spreading around teachers, a bill was recently introduced by Rep. Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico that would create a competitive grant program to fund teacher exchanges between school districts in different regions of the United States. The “Teacher Exchange Act of 2010″ would establish the program under the U.S. Department of Education to the tune of $20 million to support the exchange of some 1,000 teachers each year. To qualify for the exchange program, teachers would have to have at least three years of classroom experience—doesn’t seem that they need to show any evidence of anything like “sustained superior performance”—perhaps marry this idea to the ATC?– but they do need to agree to return to their home district for at least two years following the year-long exchange posting. For all the states and districts that don’t have enough bilingual teachers for their rapidly growing Spanish-language dominant ELL students, this could help with those shortages. And it could certainly help Puerto Rico, where roughly 20 percent of all English classes are taught by unqualified teachers.
Still need more teachers? Hire professors. Like Troops to Teachers, the university faculty to school teacher “alternative pathway” seems like a ripe one when you consider all of those economics and English professors who haven’t quite reached tenure and, alas, are getting the boot as colleges and universities start to cut non-tenured (and even tenured!) faculty to save their budgets. Add to that the PhD candidates and recent PhDs that will be looking for jobs that don’t exist anymore and you’ve got a whole new pipeline. Public schools should be scooping up these content experts while they can.