THOMASVILLE -- The Education Trust and the U.S. Department of Education are banging erasers over teacher quality provisions.

When it comes to implementing the teacher quality provisions in No Child Left Behind, The Education Trust believes the U.S. Department of Education is in need of improvement.

The Education Trust recently released a report criticizing the U.S. Department of Education for failing to make adequate progress implementing the crucial teacher quality provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act. The report comes as states submit their baseline data to the department on teacher quality indicators, including their definition of "highly qualified" teachers.

"After two years of failing to make adequate progress on implementing the teacher quality provisions in NCLB, the department is 'in need of improvement' on this issue. While they've made real progress implementing some areas of the law, such as working with states on the accountability provisions, they need to ensure that they're also focusing on the teacher quality requirements," said Ross Wiener, policy director for the Education Trust on releasing the report.

U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige issued in a press release the following statement in response to the report by the Education Trust.

"I have tremendous respect for the Education Trust and its president, Kati Haycock, and will take a close look at the recommendations of the report, but I disagree with the basic premise," he said. "President Bush and I recognize that the highly qualified teacher requirements of the landmark, bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act are some of the law's most important provisions. Accordingly, the department has worked vigorously to educate the nation on the significance of the highly qualified provisions in the law and to ensure its implementation at the state and local levels."

Under the Department of Education, a new Teacher Assistance Corps, a team of education experts, researchers and practitioners, has formed in effort to offer guidance and feedback on state efforts, address specific state challenges and provide useful information from other states about promising practices in the field.

According to the Education Trust, the research shows teacher quality is the single most important factor in determining the success of children in school, more than race, poverty, or any other outside influence. When it comes to closing the achievement gap for poor and minority students, good teaching matters most. But the Department of Education has fallen short on providing adequate focus on the issue, the Education Trust continued.

In addition, The Education trust report says: "For the past two years, the department has acted as if it believed accountability alone will bring about better achievement. The teacher quality provisions of NCLB have been at various times ignored, misinterpreted and misunderstood. There is too little focus on these important issues and widespread confusion about what they mean. As a result, NCLB is seen by many as an attempt to arbitrarily punish experienced teachers, instead of what it actually is, a law that embraces the central importance of those teachers in helping students learn."

Locally, officials are hoping the chalk will settle and the "blame game" can be abandoned.

"While there is some truth to what is being said, the report by the Education Trust is another example of finger-pointing, which is non-productive. Critics are a dime a dozen. Education reform has to get beyond the fault-finding step," said Dr. Jim Cable, superintendent of the Thomasville City School System.

Yet Cable agrees that teacher quality is a significant issue, but the categorizing of educators isn't as clear cut as it may appear.

"I do believe that teacher quality is an extremely important variable, but the definitions in the law are such that systems may be identifying some marginal teachers as 'high quality' while others, who are excellent teachers, may be identified as 'not highly qualified,'" Cable continued. "It has the potential to be very misleading. There are many intangibles that affect teacher quality that cannot necessarily be adequately measured, such as teacher attitude, work ethic and a love for children."

The U.S. Department of Education promotes educational excellence for all Americans.

The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college. Its basic tenet is that all children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.

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