Yesterday, both the Senate and House education committees held hearings related to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee heard from witnesses during Improving America’s Secondary Schools about the importance of stemming the dropout rate, especially identifying at-risk students and using interventions before a student ever reaches high school. Some of the suggestions for helping students succeed in high school included improving adolescent literacy, teacher effectiveness, charter schools, early college high schools, and career academies.
Witnesses stated that while investment in the early grades is important, funding must continue to flow to the middle and high school grades because as the curriculum gets harder, students will need additional supports. Others suggested exposing students to college campuses as early as sixth grade to raise expectations and show students that being a college student is something they can aspire to.
The House Education and Labor Committee addressed issues around teachers and leaders in Supporting America’s Educators: The Importance of Quality Teachers and Leaders which recognized the 300,000 potential layoffs that school personnel face this coming year. Witnesses focused primarily on teacher evaluations, professional development and teacher training.
Regarding the issue of teacher effectiveness, witnesses suggested that teacher evaluations were inappropriate at measuring true progress and that because incentives, like pay scale and tenure, are based on advanced degrees and years of experience, the system does not evaluate what makes a teacher effective. Others stated that teacher training needs to be continuous and take cues from other professions like medicine where the basic skills are not learned on the job but are required before certification is granted.