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Obama's latest end-run around Congress: Naming and shaming states on education

Education Secretary Arne Duncan speaks to members of the media in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, Monday, June 9, 2014. President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt, said the rising costs of college have left America's middle class feeling trapped. He says no hard-working youngster in America should be priced out of a higher education. Obama signed a presidential memorandum he says could help an additional 5 million borrowers. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Obama administration on Monday announced a new unilateral initiative to improve education for low-income and minority students, one it is again undertaking without any help or input from Congress.

The Department of Education said it would release "state-specific teacher equity profiles" that explain how states are faring in their effort to ensure equal access to quality education, and publish this information on its website this fall in order to "shine a spotlight" on areas of the country that need improvement.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced a new plan Monday to identify and publish areas of the country deemed to be lacking in quality teachers. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The department will also require states to update their plans to serve low-income and minority children.

The name-and-shame effort is part of the Department's "Excellent Educators for All" initiative. The department said it would take these steps "absent congressional action" on the behalf of "vulnerable children and families."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the effort is needed because too many kids are not being served by quality teachers in states around the country.

"Despite the excellent work and deep commitment of our nation's teachers and principals, systemic inequities exist that shortchange students in high-poverty, high-minority schools across our country," Duncan said Monday. "We have to do better.

"Local leaders and educators will develop their own innovative solutions, but we must work together to enhance and invigorate our focus on how to better recruit, support and retain effective teachers and principals for all students, especially the kids who need them most."

The department said it would publish "educator equity profiles" sometime this fall, and that these would list areas of the country that are not being served by quality teachers. It said the profiles would "help states identify gaps in access to quality teaching for low-income and minority students, as well as shine a spotlight on places where high-need schools are beating the odds and successfully recruiting and retaining effective educators."

The department will also give states information from the Civil Rights Data Collection, which will help states "inform their discussions about local inequities."

Federal officials will also ask states to design new "educator equity plans" to ensure all localities have "effective educators." Secretary Duncan was expected to sent letters to all state-wide education officials about the need to present plans to the department by April 2015.

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee, reacted to the plan Monday by saying Democrats should focus on education bills the House passed last year instead of taking unilateral steps.

"It has been almost a year since the House passed a bill to revamp the nation’s K-12 education law, yet the Senate has refused to act," he said. "To make matters worse, the administration continues to create more confusion and uncertainty through unilateral actions."

The department said research has shown that teachers are more likely to be rated as "effective" in low-poverty, low-minority schools than in other areas, and cited Louisiana, Tennessee and North Carolina as examples.

Duncan was expected to meet with high school teachers and principals on Monday afternoon, along with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Read Duncan's letter to state education officials here:

One last thing…
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