GAO: Web site leaves teachers behind

GAO report: “Improved Accessibility to Education’s Information Could Help States Further Implement T

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A new government report states that Education Department officials are not doing a good job of making Web-based resources and information on teachers’ qualification requirements more accessible to states and school districts implementing the No Child Left Behind Act.

School district officials told the Government Accountability Office that although they used Education’s Web site to get information on teacher requirements and programs, they were unaware of other resources on the Web site or had trouble finding them. GAO investigators visited 11 school districts in six states to conduct interviews.

Officials in four states said local programs to improve teachers’ 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,” GAO’s report states.

“For example, state initiatives were available through the Teachers section of the Web site and not through the Administrators section, even though state and local administrators would likely find this information more useful than teachers would,” the report adds.

States made improvements in tracking teachers who met the act’s requirements in the 2003-2004 academic year, but there were problems with the quality of some state-reported data, according to the report.

Education officials provide technical assistance and conduct visits to help identify and address challenges, but they rely heavily on the department’s Web site “as one of its principal means for providing information and implementation resources for states and districts,” the report states.

GAO recommends that Education’s secretary investigate betters 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,” the report states.

No Child Left Behind, enacted in 2001, was designed to help improve students’ academic performance, and a major element is ensuring that teachers are proficient in the core subjects they teach. The federal government established specific criteria for teachers -- for example, they must have a bachelor’s degree, state certification or demonstrable competency in each subject they teach.

Congress has appropriated about $3 billion a year for teacher-improvement programs since the law was passed.

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