The Future of Teaching

One-hundred percent proficiency -- that was the big story of No Child Left Behind when the law was passed in 2002. Within 12 years all public school children would have to be proficient in math and reading, no matter how far they had to go to reach that goal.

The proficiency requirement was, understandably, the primary focus of public attention in NCLB’s early years. It dominated media reports and the agendas of local administrators and school board members. And it largely defined the enforcement efforts of the U.S. Department of Education, which spent considerable time walking states and districts -- and, sometimes, pushing them -- through the testing and accountability process.

But there’s another NCLB requirement that is equally important and very much related to the much-publicized proficiency goals: All children -- black and white; Hispanic and Asian; rich and poor; suburban, rural, or urban -- must be taught by highly qualified teachers.

While there is considerable disagreement over whether 100-percent student proficiency, or anything approaching it, can be achieved, there is broad agreement that achieving any meaningful increase in student achievement will take the best teachers America can offer.

“The simple truth is that this country cannot close achievement gaps without closing teacher-quality gaps,” says an August Education Trust report on the progress states have made in creating federally mandated teacher quality plans. 

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