A Marshall Plan for Teaching
What It Will Really Take to Leave No Child Behind
By Linda Darling-Hammond
Views about the No Child Left Behind Act are currently as divided as Berlin before the wall came down. But whatever one thinks about the 5-year-old federal law, it’s clear that developing more-skillful teaching is a sine qua non for attaining higher and more equitable achievement for students in the United States. Without teachers who have sophisticated skills for teaching challenging content to diverse learners, there is no way that children from all racial and ethnic, language, and socioeconomic backgrounds will reach the high academic standards envisioned by the law. For this reason, one of the most important aspects of the No Child Left Behind legislation is its demand for a “highly qualified” teacher for every child.
Research indicates that expert teachers are the most important—and the most inequitably distributed—school resource. In the United States, however, schools serving more than 1 million of our highest-need students are staffed by a parade of underprepared and inexperienced teachers who know little about effective instruction, and even less about teaching English-language learners and students with disabilities. Many of these teachers enter the classroom with little training and leave soon after, creating greater instability in their wake. Meanwhile, affluent students receive teachers who are typically better prepared than their predecessors, further widening the achievement gap.
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