A Second Bid by US Education Department to Regulate Teacher Preparation Programs Receives Mixed Reactions

The federal government, following a failed attempt in 2012 because of a lack of agreement to use test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness, would like states to use a rating system approved its Department of Education to determine how well teacher preparation programs run by the universities, Teach for America and other nonprofits and through school districts are preparing K-12 teachers for the classroom. Obama Administration does not believe that K-12 teachers are ready for the classroom. Some of the criteria the rating system would use to rank the programs as “low-performing,” “at-risk,” “effective” or “exceptional” are whether the graduates from these programs are hired to teach the subject of their specialty, how their students do in standardized and other tests, and how long they remain at their jobs.

A “low-performing” or “at-risk” program for two consecutive years, will lose the $4000 a year federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education, or TEACH, grants for teacher preparation candidates who agree to work full time in high-need fields and struggling schools for at least four academic years which amounted to $96.7 million for 34, 000 grants.

According to Arne Duncan Education Secretary of Education, “Nothing in school matters as much as the quality of teaching our students receive. We owe it to our children to give them the best-prepared teachers possible.” The regulations will be issued by September 2015 with the first report cards issued by states in April 2019. Take advantage of the 60 day public comment period to share your ideas and opinions.

Here are the mixed reactions reported by Lyndsey Layton, who has been covering national education since 2011:

“Arthur Levine, former president of Teachers College at Columbia University and a critic of teacher preparation programs, said the country needs urgent action. “Our colleges and universities have waited far too long to transform these programs to meet the needs of both today and tomorrow,” he said.

“Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities, said the move is “a significant expansion in the federal role overseeing state government. But it may well change considerably before it becomes final.”

“States would be required to judge the quality of an education program in large part by tracking the performance of a newly minted teacher’s students on standardized tests. That idea triggered immediate protests from teachers unions, which argue that student test scores are not an accurate measurement of teacher effectiveness.”

“There’s no evidence these regulations will lead to improvement and plenty of reason to believe they will cause harm,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, adding that teacher prep programs might avoid placing graduates in struggling schools where test scores tend to be lower and teacher turnover higher.“Due to the focus on K-12 test scores, the very programs preparing diverse teachers for our increasingly diverse classrooms will be penalized.”

“Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association, said her union recognizes the need for better teacher training, but she also slammed the “inappropriate” use of test scores to judge teacher preparation. “Too many teachers are saying they are unprepared for the realities of the classroom and that teacher preparation, licensure, and induction standards must improve,” she said.

“Charles Barone, policy director for Democrats for Education Reform, said that improving the education schools’ quality will prevent future problems.“They could save a lot in the long run if they just got the training right from the get go,” he said.

“Too many people are graduating who aren’t prepared to teach. Then you get bad instruction for the kids. And we try to remediate that,” Barone said. “You’d do less of that and disrupt fewer lives if you just got it right from the beginning.”

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