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Teacher equity plans approved for 16 states

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WASHINGTON (AP) — To ensure all students, regardless of race, ethnicity or economic background, get equal access to the best teachers, Kentucky plans to enhance mentoring for new teachers. Massachusetts will seek to raise standards for teacher education programs, and Rhode Island and Nevada are looking at financial incentives to attract and retain teachers.

The four are among 16 states that won federal approval Thursday for plans to improve teacher equity that are required under the No Child Left Behind education law.

The plans focus on mentoring new and existing teachers, improving teacher preparation programs, eliminating teacher shortages and giving financial incentives to teachers who work in lower-performing schools.

All 50 states submitted plans; the Obama administration is still reviewing the other plans. States could lose federal dollars if they don't have adequate plans to address gaps in the distribution of high-quality teachers across school districts.

In the first batch of approvals, the department endorsed teacher equity plans by Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Minnesota, New York, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

"Access to strong teaching should never be connected to your child's race, ethnicity or national origin, zip code, or family income or first language," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a phone call with reporters. "It's something that we should treat as a right in this country."

Duncan said that the states have committed to publicly report their progress.

In Nevada, part of the focus will be on keeping experienced teachers. The state has a new law that established a performance pay system for the recruitment and retention of teachers and administrators primarily at the lowest-performing schools.

In Kentucky, school officials are looking to enhance mentoring programs for new teachers. And Connecticut is implementing a program that aims to retain principals for at least five years in high-poverty or high-minority schools.

According to department statistics, black and American Indian students are four times as likely as their white peers to go to a school where more than 20 percent of teachers are in their first year. The same data show that Latino students are three times as likely.

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