Teacher info eludes local school districts

Education Department officials must do a better job of making Web-based resources and information on teacher qualification requirements easily accessible to states and school districts as they implement the No Child Left Behind Act, according to a new government report.

School district officials told the Government Accountability Office that although they used the ED.gov Web site to get some information on teacher qualifications and programs, they were unaware of other resources on the site or had trouble finding them.

Several resources related to the implementation of the law's teacher qualification requirements, such as information about innovative state practices, are available only from the Web site, GAO found.

GAO recommended that the Education secretary investigate ways to make Web-based information more accessible. "Specifically, the secretary may want to more prominently display the link to state teacher initiatives as well as consider enhancing the capability of the search function," according to the report on a study directed by Marnie Shaul, director of education, workforce and income security issues at GAO.

GAO investigators visited 11 school districts in six states to conduct interviews.

Officials in four states said information about local programs to improve teacher qualifications would be helpful, but they did not know that Education offered such information on its Web site.

"In our review of Education's Web site, we found that information and resources on the teacher qualification requirements were located on several different Web pages that sometimes were not linked, making the information difficult to locate," the report states.

GAO found that information on state initiatives was available in the "Teachers" section of the ED.gov site but and not in the "Administrators" section, even though that information would probably be more useful to administrators than to teachers, according to the report.

States made improvements in tracking teachers who met the law's requirements in the 2003-2004 academic year, but some state-reported data was insufficient.

Education officials provide technical assistance and conduct visits to help identify and address challenges to implementing the No Child Left Behind Act, but they rely heavily on the department's Web site to provide information and implementation resources for states and districts, the report states.

In the department's written response to the GAO report, Henry Johnson, assistant secretary of Education, said the department will instruct employees to integrate information on the ED.gov Web site with information available at www.teacherquality.us and other education sites.

"It is our goal that, within the next two months, we will provide a more seamless portal to all information about highly qualified teachers," Johnson wrote.

The No Child Left Behind Act, enacted in 2001, was designed to improve students' academic performance. A major focus of the law is ensuring that teachers are proficient in the core subjects they teach.

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