Bennet Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Create Academies that Prepare Great Teachers and Principals

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today led a bipartisan group of senators to introduce a bill that would establish academies that train and support great teachers and principals to help improve student achievement in high-need schools.

The Growing Excellent Achievement Training Academies (GREAT) Teachers and Principals Act would reduce bureaucracy and red tape for new kinds of teacher and principal training academies that are held accountable to high standards. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have also cosponsored the bill.

“Every kid in Colorado and across the country should have access to a quality education that will prepare them to succeed. We can help put them on the road to success by doing a better job of preparing and supporting our teachers and principals for this challenging work,” Bennet said. “This bill will help ensure our teachers and principals, the most important pieces of a successful education, have the support and training they need to prepare our kids for college and careers in the 21st century economy.”

Although studies show that nothing makes a bigger difference to learning than great teaching, the current system for training and supporting teachers and principals, especially to teach in high-need schools, is falling short. Nearly half of teachers leave the profession in the first five years. Three years of good teaching can mean as much as a 53 percentile-point difference in student academic achievement compared with ineffective teaching, but a leading study of 28 teacher-training programs revealed that more than 60 percent of alumni said that they were not adequately prepared for the classroom.

The bill would create new and more effective avenues for the preparation of great teachers and principals, by harnessing the power of innovation.

The bill supports the growth of new kinds of teacher and principal training academies. Academies would receive federal resources directly through participating states. The academies would be defined by key characteristics:

  • Rigorous selection in admissions to prepare the best and brightest for success in the schools and subjects where they are needed most
  • Emphasis on clinical instruction similar to how we train doctors
  • Accountability for producing effective teachers and principals with their graduation tied to improving student academic achievement. Programs that fail to produce great teachers or principals will be not be reauthorized. In return for accepting this accountability, academies will be free from burdensome, input-based regulations that are unrelated to student achievement.

Representatives Tom Petri (R-WI) and Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives today.