Comment on the Proposed Regulations for Teacher Preparation Programs to Education Department by February 2nd!

I received this notification from William Buxton which I would like to share because I believe that it is very important. William Buxton, Associate Professor at State University of New York Cortland, on behalf of American Federation of Teachers, AFT, is calling on all educators to let the Department of Education know by February 2nd 2015 their opinions and comments on the proposed regulations for teacher preparation programs before the final regulations are written.

William Buxton writes

The Education Department wants to use unreliable, out-of-context data like K-12 standardized test scores and employment numbers to punish teacher preparation programs.

We have until Feb. 2 to comment before the department goes into the process of writing the final regulations. Who better to tell them what we need than educators like you?

Tell the Department of Education that testing and other invalid measures will not work to determine the success of teacher preparation programs.

The way the department wants to judge programs is complicated, so here’s an example. Sasha goes to UCLA to become a teacher. After graduation, Sasha gets a job as an eighth-grade English teacher in East Los Angeles. To judge whether UCLA’s program was good, California will use the standardized test scores from Sasha’s students. If the students’ scores aren’t high enough, UCLA will get a bad grade.

Crazy, right? And it gets worse. Because of the use of employment numbers, when a recession hits and Sasha is laid off due to budget cuts, UCLA can get another bad grade.

And those bad grades come with punishments. Schools with poor ratings can lose federal resources, like student grants and aid.

Using these measures also means that preparation programs whose graduates teach in high-need schools are more likely to receive those punishments, because of lower test scores and higher teacher turnover in those schools. As a result, preparation programs could be discouraged from preparing students to take on tough assignments, and may even steer students away from jobs in high-need schools. The last thing we need is a system that makes it HARDER to recruit teachers for our highest-need students!

Tell the Department of Education that this test-and-punish style of accountability is not a route to improvement, just as it has not improved K-12 education.

What is wrong with the proposed regulations? K-12 test scores were not designed to rate teacher prep programs. Cash-strapped states will have to build new data systems. And these regulations don’t set a level playing field for all programs. Alternative preparation programs, for example, where teachers learn on the job, are rated differently, giving them an advantage.

The AFT supports a rigorous, professional preparation process for aspiring teachers, as laid out in our Raising the Bar report. We believe that our system for preparing and licensing teachers should ensure that every teacher is fully trained and ready on their first day in the classroom.

We want systemic improvement, and we want the information that will help us to get there, including multiple measures of student performance and data on who enters the teaching profession and who stays. But taking this data out of context, and then attaching high-stakes consequences, isn’t the answer.

Teaching and learning in the K-12 system will improve when we invest in the teaching profession—investing in high-quality teacher preparation and supporting teachers before and while they are in the classroom.


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.”