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States get low marks for teacher hiring practices

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Although states are attempting to boost teacher quality, they are heading in the wrong direction with highly centralized, regulation-heavy policies, said a report issued today.

The Thomas Fordham Foundation, a privately run school-reform research organization, compiled data on policies it associates with teacher quality and concluded that most states stand in the way of ensuring that quality teachers get into the nation's classrooms.

"A far more promising approach is to deregulate entry into teaching, devolve personnel authority to individual schools, and then hold those schools and their staffs to account for student learning that occurs in them," said foundation president Chester E. Finn Jr., who was an Education Department official in the Reagan administration.

The Washington-based group evaluated states in areas that included how they punish or reward teachers and administrators for student achievement, conduct checks of teachers' backgrounds and college course work, and how much they give individual schools power to hire and fire teachers.

States were also judged on whether their willingness to certify candidates that did not come from traditional college teacher preparation programs. Forty-four states require teachers to pass a test to earn a license. But the tests, which vary, grant teachers credentials based on a range of measures from basic skills to knowledge of a specific subject to teaching performance.

The foundation report cited Texas, whose governor is GOP presidential front-runner George W. Bush, for being one of the few states to evaluate teachers based on how well their students perform in the classroom and its aggressive recruitment of talented professionals from other fields.

But more than half the state's teachers are not teaching the subjects they studied or were certified for, the report said.

States such as Kansas were criticized for not giving schools more say in the hiring and firing of their teachers. "Principals' hands are tied by teacher tenure, granted after just three years," the report said of Kansas.
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The full report, "The Quest for Better Teachers: Grading the States," is available on the Web at http://www.edexcellence.net.

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