Watchdog Criticizes Oversight of Teacher Prep

July 24, 2015

States receiving federal funding for their teacher preparation programs are required by federal law to identify which ones aren’t performing well, but the U.S. Department of Education hasn’t checked to make sure they do, according to a Government Accountability Office study released Thursday.

GAO investigators found that seven states, unnamed in the report, don’t have a process for identifying low-performing teacher preparation programs. Under federal law, states have discretion over the criteria for evaluating the programs, but they have to have a process for singling out the poor-performing ones.

The GAO said that in addition to making sure that states comply with the law, the Education Department should also do a better job of sharing information about the quality of teacher preparation programs within the agency and with states.

Education Department officials largely agreed with the findings and pointed out that the Obama administration has proposed new regulations aimed at boosting the quality of teacher preparation programs.

The draft rules, published last November after year of delays, would set new standards for how states evaluate their teacher preparation programs with a focus on student learning outcomes.

The proposal is controversial because it would require states to judge a teacher preparation program based in part on how a program’s graduates perform in the classroom -- which may include standardized test scores. The Obama administration wants to link colleges’ receipt of TEACH Grants to their performance under the new, more robust state evaluations.

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