This article originally appeared on heartland.org.
Politico has finally picked up on a story that School Reform News reported for you months ago: The Obama administration isn’t kidding in its demands that states figure out how to redistribute the best teachers. But there are several logistical problems:
A state can’t force good teachers to move to high-needs schools. And the factors that influence teachers’ decisions – such as salary, support and working conditions ‒ are made locally, not at the state level.
The federal government’s influence is also limited.
The U.S. Department of Education hopes to use public pressure to prod states to take action: It plans to publish updated state equity profiles every two years, but it doesn’t have much other leverage.
Another problem: The way the federal government labels teachers “high quality” depends on credentials that essentially say nothing about a teacher’s actual quality. States will spend taxpayer dollars generating Rube Goldberg plans to do the impossible using bad data related to the problem – if there is one. It sounds more like a federal education scheme all the time.
The article mentions, but ultimately skates past, a genuine impediment to getting quality teachers to high-need positions and schools: One-size-fits-all teacher pay schedules. Many districts cannot offer a potential hire more money for a proven track record or for filling a high-need position. A Los Angeles Unified School District official told Politico the same story one hears from district leaders across the country: They have a terribly difficult time finding special-needs teachers, especially for the most disabled children, as well as chemistry and physics teachers.
Money is a communication device. Higher pay for higher-demand work communicates what jobs society needs done more than others, inducing people to move outside their comfort zones and fill them. Perhaps some enterprising state could write that into its compliance proposal.