Teacher Prep Rules Are Coming

Obama administration officials say they are moving ahead with a controversial proposal to more tightly regulate programs that educate teachers.

April 25, 2014

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is planning to move ahead this summer with a proposal that would tie federal grants for teacher preparation programs, in part, to how well their graduates perform as teachers.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday that his agency would, in the coming months, propose new rules governing teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities. The proposal seeks to have states develop ratings of teacher preparation programs that the department would, in turn, use in determining whether the programs are eligible to receive federal TEACH Grants.

The administration wants those state-based ratings of the programs to involve outcome measures, such as job placement rates, job retention rates, alumni satisfaction, and how well graduates are teaching (as measured by their students’ achievement).

The goal, Duncan said, is to hold teacher preparation programs accountable for the teachers they send out to the nation’s schools. He said that too many teacher preparation programs are not doing a good enough job in preparing their graduates for the work force, including abilities such as teaching diverse groups of students and using technology in the classroom.

“Every teacher preparation program that is producing future teachers should be held accountable,” he told reporters Thursday. “We want to know who is doing this work well and who is not.”

The Education Department has been sitting on the controversial proposal since a federal rule making panel failed to reach consensus on the regulatory language more than two years ago.

It is not clear how, if at all, the new proposal being released this summer will differ from the drafts circulated as part of the 2012 negotiating sessions.

“We’re still working this stuff through,” Duncan said.  

TEACH Grants provide aid -- up to $4,000 each year for undergraduates and $8,000 for master’s students -- for students planning to become teachers and work in high-need areas. Federal law requires that the grants go only to those teacher preparation programs that are of “high quality.” The administration’s proposal is based on creating a definition for what constitutes a high-quality teacher education program.

Colleges and universities, especially teacher preparation programs, largely opposed the administration’s efforts last time to attach new strings to a federal grant aimed at helping aspiring teachers.  

Mary Harrill McClellan, who directs policy at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said Thursday that it was too early to judge a proposal that has not yet been released. But, she said, it would be “unprecedented” for the administration to tie federal financial aid to student outcomes.

“We very much saw this as a canary in a coal mine last time around,” she said. “I think that’s why the higher ed community was so engaged.”

The Obama administration has since proposed a federal rating system for all colleges and universities. Officials are similarly pushing ahead with that proposal and have said they will produce a first draft before the end of June. The Education Department can, on its own, create a college ratings system, but it would have to persuade Congress to tie such a system to federal student aid. 


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