New Teacher Prep Regulation


October 12, 2016

By Michael Dannenberg  

The Obama administration will release its final teacher preparation reform regulation today.  It is pretty much along the lines discussed in the past.

States are to set up teacher preparation reporting and accountability systems that are outcome-oriented. They’ll have to look at K-12 outcomes associated with specific teacher preparation programs — including K-12 employment outcomes like candidate placement and retention, K-12 student learning outcomes á la ESSA reporting (even more broadly flexible though in that there is no mandated reliance on K-12 student standardized test scores), and customer satisfaction outcomes (e.g. survey results from program graduates and school employers).

In addition, states will have to assure broad program characteristics, such as significant clinical preparation time, are present with specialized accreditation serving as a proxy.  Step it up CAEP.  Programs rated very poorly will lose federal TEACH loan forgiveness / grant eligibility.

States will have flexibility in their accountability system designs to include additional measures of program effectiveness, to determine how much weight to assign specific outcome indicators of program quality, and whether programs are to receive summative ratings that place it in one of three or more overall quality tiers.  Regardless, there must be meaningful differentiation among the rating tiers.  States are to consult with a broad array of stakeholders during the 2016-2017 academic year, can pilot their systems in 2017-2018, and must fully implement in 2018-2019. Some $75 million in ESEA Title II state set-aside funds are available annually to assist in system development and operation.

The goals remain to bring greater transparency and accountability to the teacher preparation system so that programs self-improve, candidates and employers are empowered with information regarding individual teacher preparation program effectiveness, and the federal taxpayer is at least nominally protected from funding persistently poor performing institutions and programs.

There’s a 12:30 pm EST event with Secretary John King and Undersecretary Ted Mitchell at the University of Southern California.

Here’s our quick take.  As my first boss in politics, Senator Pell, used to say, “sometimes you get a loaf of bread one slice at a time.”

Education Reform Now’s Quick Take
on the New Obama Teacher Preparation Reform Regulation

  • The new teacher preparation regulation appears consistent with ESSA and the Obama rebalancing of responsibility for education reform and improvement to the state level – with federal guardrails.  The Obama regulation puts the states on the spot.
  • College presidents, school of education deans, and alternative route programs will be empowered with a new “feedback loop” between K-12 education and teacher preparation  programs so the latter can self-improve and be more valuable to the former.  That’s why groups like Deans for Impact are supportive.
  • The most tangible impact of the regulation may prove to be in driving better labor market matching, because teacher preparation programs will be held accountable for candidate employment outcomes.  Currently, there is an overproduction of aspiring suburban, elementary school teachers and an underproduction of math and science secondary school teachers.  Many colleges don’t care and will admit anyone they can collect tuition from who wants to be an elementary school teacher regardless of his or her likelihood of success or finding a job.  Schools of education should be producing more math science teachers and other teachers prepared to work in needy schools with diverse populations.  That’s why groups like the Council of Great City Schools are supportive of the Obama teacher preparation reforms.
  • Year after year and grade after grade, racial minority and low-income children are assigned a stream of underprepared rookie teachers.  In first grade they get a rookie teacher; in second grade they get a rookie teacher; in third grade they get a rookie teacher. . . Why is it poor, Black, and Latino kids disproportionately get rookie teachers who have to learn how to teach on the job? Teacher preparation is an education equity issue. The kids who need the most should be getting the best-trained, most effective teachers, not the least.  The regulations should at least aid in an effort to ensure that rookie teachers are more prepared on Day 1.
  • Prior to the new regulation, passively, states could neglect to assess teacher preparation program quality, including candidate and associated K-12 student learning outcomes.  In fact, many states simply outsourced teacher preparation quality control to the teacher education programs themselves.  Now states that want to abdicate responsibility for the quality control will have to do it affirmatively after consulting with stakeholder groups and face federal oversight.  But in many ways, it’ll be up to education reform groups to hold states’ feet to the fire.
  • Hopefully, the new regulation will make universities less eager to treat education schools like ATM machines.  Colleges and college presidents will have an additional external incentive to invest in the quality of their teacher preparation programs lest they be rated poorly very publicly and lose federal TEACH loan forgiveness / grant eligibility.  In short, the regulatory framework is designed to dissuade universities from treating schools of education like cash cows.
  • Conceptually, the teacher preparation regulation furthers the President’s legacy on higher educationObama has extended the higher education policy paradigm from a focus on access and affordability to one that encompasses completion and quality as well.  You see it with the for-profit schools and gainful employment.  You see it in the transparency & communications efforts on completion.  And you’re seeing it here on teacher preparation program quality.  Results matter.
  • Groundbreaking is tying teacher education program quality to access to Title IV (student loan) aid.  Remember the Obama college ratings proposal that would tie college quality to eligibility to participate in federal financial aid programs?  Well, this is that proposal come to fruition, but for a subset of higher education (teacher preparation programs) and based on the quality assessments of states as opposed to the federal government.

More details and analysis to follow once the regulation formally is published.  Past comments from over 25 supportive advocacy groups can be found here.

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