Bennet, Alexander, Mikulski Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Create Academies that Prepare Great Teachers and Principals

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) today introduced a bipartisan bill to create and support 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 help grow new kinds of teacher and principal training academies that are held accountable to high standards in exchange for reduced bureaucracy and red tape. Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have also cosponsored the bill.

“My time as superintendent of Denver Public Schools taught me there is no harder or more important job than being a teacher,” said Bennet. “We need to do a better job of preparing and supporting our teachers and principals for this challenging work. This bill will help ensure that we have high quality training academies that produce great teachers and principals.”

“Being in the classroom, not just the lecture hall, will help the next generation of teachers and principals get the skills they need to make our schools the best they can be,” said Senator Mikulski, Chairwoman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families. “Educators need training where they’re supported, where they’re mentored, where they get critical feedback, and where they learn what it takes to be a great teacher or principal. Our children deserve the best. That’s what this bill is about.”

Although studies show that nothing makes a bigger difference to learning that 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 GREAT Teachers and Principals Act 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 get the best and brightest into the schools where they are needed most
  • Emphasis on clinical instruction in preparing teacher and principal candidates
  • 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. More than 50 organizations signed a letter of support for the bill led by NewSchools Venture Fund and including the Business Round Table, Teach For America, and the United Negro College Fund.