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Representative Charles Rangel and Teachers College President Arthur Levine Join Forces to Call for Greater Incentives to Improve Teacher Quality in New York City's Most Challenging Schools

September 6 th Press Conference urges City and Teachers Union to take advantage of likely funding to bring the best teachers to the schools that need them most

Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY, 15 th District) and Arthur Levine, President of Teachers College, Columbia University, will hold a joint press conference at 10:30 on September 6 th to call for greater incentives for excellent teachers to work in New York City's most challenging schools.

Rangel and Levine will be joined by Michael Rebell, Executive Director of The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College; Dr. Lorraine Monroe, founder of the Lorraine Monroe Leadership Institute, educational advisor to Congressman Rangel and Trustee of Teachers College; and Darlyne Bailey, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Teachers College.

The press conference will take place at P.S. 123, at 301 West 140 th Street , just west of Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

Rangel and Levine are issuing their call as contract negotiations continue between New York City and the United Federation of Teachers. Both sides have affirmed, in principle, the idea of bringing better teachers into the schools that need them most, but an ultimate agreement will probably require the union to allow its senior-most teachers to be assigned to more difficult schools, while the city will likely be compelled to offer pay increases in exchange.

"Tragically, an entire generation of poor urban and rural children, many minority and most undereducated, are missing out on the American dream," Mr. Rangel has written.  "At the time of unprecedented economic growth in this country these children are being left behind.  More specifically, while there are many dedicated teachers and great public schools in this country, it is a shame when even one child in the United States receives an obsolete and inadequate education. The reality is that America is on the verge of suffering a national teacher shortage, and will need to replace over 2 million teacher retirees over the next 10 years.  This fact, along with rising student enrollment, and the pressure to reduce class size, means that even more marginally skilled people may be enlisted to teach.  This shortage is becoming critically apparent in New York City today, and in all our nation's inner cities."

"Study after study has shown that quality teaching is the single most important factor in helping students - and young students in particular - to succeed in school," Dr. Levine said. "Yet the New York City schools with the greatest number of struggling students - typically from poor and minority families - are typically those with the highest percentage of teachers who are uncertified, inexperienced or lacking training or competence in the specific subject areas they teach. Some 60 percent of our city's low-performing students are concentrated in just one-third of our schools, nearly all of them in high-poverty areas such as Bedford Stuyvesant, Harlem , Washington Heights and the South Bronx . The prospect of failure in these schools is so overwhelming that teacher turnover is constant."

Despite the stipulation by No Child Left Behind, President Bush's education program, that all public school teachers of core subjects must be "highly qualified" by the end of the 2005-‘06 school year, unqualified and under-qualified teachers abound. Evidence presented a few years ago in CFE vs. State of New York revealed that, in New York City, 14 percent of all teachers were uncertified and 31 percent of all recently hired teachers had performed poorly on teacher certification exams for minimum competency. In California , 12 percent of the state's teachers - and 18 percent in high-poverty districts - lacked full certification in 2000-01.

Rangel and Levine believe that the coming Mayoral election and the promise of a significant increase in school funding through the lawsuit brought against New York State by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (the organization formerly headed by Mr. Rebell) presents a major opportunity to improve the situation.

Mr. Rangel, whose district comprises East and Central Harlem, the Upper West Side , and Washington Heights/Inwood, is the Ranking Member of the Committee on Ways and Means, Chairman of the Board of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Dean of the New York State Congressional Delegation. He also is a founding member and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the he is principal author of the $5 billion Federal Empowerment Zone demonstration project to revitalize urban neighborhoods throughout America.

Dr. Levine, who also is Professor of Education at Teachers College, is a nationally regarded educational innovator previously chaired the Higher Education program and the Institute for Educational Management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A 1982 Guggenheim Fellowship winner, he has served as consultant to more than 250 colleges and universities. Earlier this year, he released the first of four reports on the state of American education schools, titled "Educating School Leaders."

Improving teacher quality is a major priority of The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, which was launched in June with Mr. Rebell as its Executive Director and Laurie M. Tisch as its Board Chair.

"Every child needs and deserves exposure to a teacher with the power to inspire," Tisch said. "I believe that with the exception of parents and families, there is no stronger formative force in a child's life."

Published Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005