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.


STEM Education gets $28 Million from Obama Administration

In an effort to increase the number of  teachers of technology, science and math across the US classrooms, President Obama announced on Thursday November 20, 2014 during a White House ceremony to present the highest national science, technology and innovation awards for 2014 that a $28 million investment will be made by the federal government in partnership with some organizations. The increased funding will provide one million new students with science courses over the next two years and also continue the Educate to Innovate initiative started in 2009 to increase the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills of high school students in the United States.


Racial Disparities in Access to Educational Opportunities To Be Rectified in One New Jersey School District

The School District of South Orange and Maplewood in New Jersey has been prompted to provide its African American students equal access to and equal opportunities to Advanced Placement (AP), Honors and other college and career preparatory courses following a review by the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights which revealed glaring disparities in the opportunities that African American and white students are exposed to. The review was done to make sure that the school district complies with the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq., as well as implements regulation 34 C.F.R. Part 100, which prohibit discrimination on the bases of race, color and national origin by organizations that receive funds from the Federal government. The review exposed that only 19 percent of African American students are enrolled in the district’s AP courses although they make up 38 percent of the student population. On the other hand, white students who make up 49 percent of the student population in the district hold most of the enrollment in the AP courses. The school district will take action steps to rectify the existing disparities.
The Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, stated that the US Department of Education will conduct investigations to ensure that school districts and states are providing “poor and minority students with access to strong teachers, demanding coursework and facilities that their white peers receive”.