Government Assistance for Teacher Education
Many forms of government assistance are available for the education and recruitment of new teachers. Those entering the teaching profession may be eligible for loan forgiveness or deferment, while current teachers may be eligible for incentives like merit pay. Other, special incentives programs have been created to attract and retain highly qualified and minority teachers. These programs may offer partial or full tuition re-imbursement, or partial or full reimbursement of examination fees. While states, school districts, and schools may struggle to meet the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, great opportunities are available to anyone interested in the teaching profession.
Keywords Adequate Yearly Progress; Corporation for National and Community Service; Highly Qualified Teacher; Incentives; Loan Deferment; Loan Forgiveness; Merit Pay; Minority Teacher; No Child Left Behind Act of 2001; Praxis
Teacher Education: Government Assistance for Teacher Education
Education is a big business in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Education, an estimated $1 trillion will be spent on education in the U.S. during the 2007-2008 school year. Of the amount that will be spent “at the elementary and secondary levels, over 92% of the funds will come from non-federal sources” (U.S. Department of Education, 2007a, ¶ 1). With minimal federal support, it is up to states and individual school districts to figure out how to attract and retain qualified instructors with the funds they have or by tapping into private sources.
With the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, states and school districts have tried to find ways to ensure that their instructors meet the Act's high requirements for teacher and recruit instructors in two of the more difficult-to-staff subjects: science and mathematics. State efforts include offering incentives like signing bonuses, and introducing more professional development programs to boost existing instructors' skills to meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind. As of 2006, at least 31 states had financial incentive programs intended to address subject shortages, and 17 states offered monetary incentives in an effort to recruit instructors for hard-to-staff schools (Cavanagh, 2006).
Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs
The federal government became involved in education in a comprehensive way as a result of the Cold War. In order to ensure a supply of highly trained, American workers ready to compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act in 1958. Part of this act “included support for loans to college students and the improvement of science, mathematics, and foreign language instruction in elementary and secondary schools” (U.S. Department of Education, 2007a). Currently, the federal government offers two loan cancellation/deferment options to instructors who teach in low-income areas or who choose to teach in a discipline facing an instructor shortage (Federal Student Aid, 2006a).
Federal Perkins Loan
Instructors who have a Federal Perkins Loan may be eligible for loan forgiveness if they work in a low-income “public or private nonprofit elementary or secondary school system, in a school serving students from low-income families, or work as a special education instructor” (Town Hall, 2005, p. 69). They may also be eligible for loan forgiveness if they teach mathematics, science, foreign languages, bilingual education, or any field of expertise determined by their state education agency to have a shortage of qualified teachers. In order to receive complete loan forgiveness, instructors are required to teach for five years. However, they receive incremental loan forgiveness in the following stages (Federal Student Aid, 2006b):
• 15% of the loan is cancelled after the first year of teaching.
• Another 15% of the loan is cancelled after the second year of teaching.
• 20% of the loan is cancelled after the third year of teaching.
• Another 20% of the loan is cancelled after the fourth year of teaching.
• The balance of the loan-30%-is cancelled after the fifth year of teaching.
The amount of the loan cancelled each year also includes the interest that accrued during the year. Teachers qualify for a loan deferment while they are teaching in any of the areas that qualify for loan forgiveness. Therefore, they do not have to pay anything towards their student loans if they qualify under this program (Federal Student Aid, 2006b).
Instructors who have a Stafford Loan and teach full time for five consecutive years in a low-income public or private nonprofit elementary or secondary school, or in a teacher shortage area may be eligible to have a portion of their loan forgiven.
• For teaching service that began before October 2004, this program forgives up to $5,000 if instructors taught elementary school full time and “demonstrated knowledge and teaching skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the curriculum; or, taught full time in a secondary school in a subject area relevant to their major” (Federal Student Aid, 2006c). The program also forgives up to $17,500 for highly qualified teachers who taught mathematics or science in an eligible secondary school or who taught special education (Federal Student Aid, 2006c).
• For teaching service that began after October 2004, this program forgives up to $5,000 in loans for highly qualified instructors who taught full-time at an elementary or secondary school. The program also forgives up to $17,500 in loans for highly qualified secondary school mathematics and science instructors and for highly qualified special education instructors (Federal Student Aid, 2006c).
In August 2007, the federal government passed new legislation to improve science and mathematics education throughout the nation by using federal grant funds to enhance teacher recruitment and training. The bill is called the America COMPETES Act; COMPETES stands for America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science. The law establishes several new federal mathematics and science programs and expands on programs already in existence to strengthen the quality of the nation's workforce to help it compete against international workforces. One of the programs that was expanded is the Robert Noyce Scholarship program, which, in 2007, provided $10,000 a year to students majoring in mathematics or science-related fields who agree to teach in high-need schools upon graduation. It was projected to cost $43.3 billion over three years, although much of this money was earmarked for research programs (Cavanagh & Hoff, 2007).
Merit pay gained some popularity in the 1980s when some school districts implemented programs to induce better instructor performance by offering bonuses or pay raises for teachers who do their jobs well. Those programs did not last very long, did not have the support of teachers' unions, and were considered quite controversial at the time because most relied on an administrator's judgment as to whether or not merit pay was awarded. Few studies completed to determine if merit pay effectively improved instructor performance. In the mid-2000s, Merit pay returned to the forefront with various programs throughout the country. This time, however, the U.S. Department of Education has become involved in some of these programs (Viadero, 2007).
In 2006, the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences awarded a five-year, $10 million grant to the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University to study the efficacy of merit pay. Part of the center's goal was to determine if instructors behaved differently when bonuses were available, whether student achievement improved when instructors had the opportunity to receive a bonus, and if a merit pay program could attract more instructors into the field. In one case, the grant funded a program in which instructors could earn up to $15,000 a year in bonuses over three years for gains their students made on state examinations. Beginning with the 2006-2007 school year, instructors qualified for a $5,000 bonus if their students' gains on the state examination matched gains made by the top 20% of students based on the prior year data, and instructors would receive a $10,000 bonus if their students performed at least as well as students who ranked in the top 15% based on prior year data. These programs differed from earlier renditions of merit pay programs since the bonuses were more substantial and success was determined by actual...
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