On Oct. 12 the U.S Department of Education released final rules that will require states to establish an accountability system for their teacher preparation programs that includes how graduates perform as teachers based on their students’ academic success. Low performing programs that don’t measure up will risk the loss of federal TEACH grants.
The final regulations are designed “to provide transparency around the effectiveness of all preparation programs” (traditional, alternative routes, and distance) and will require states to report annually – at the program level – on the following measures:
- Placement and retention rates of graduates in their first three years of teaching, including placement and retention in high-need schools;
- Feedback from graduates and their employers on the effectiveness of program preparation;
- Student learning outcomes measured by novice teachers’ student growth, teacher evaluation results, and/or another state-determined measure that is relevant to students’ outcomes, including academic performance, and meaningfully differentiates amongst teachers; and
- Other program characteristics, including assurances that the program has specialized accreditation or graduates candidates with content and pedagogical knowledge, and quality clinical preparation, who have met rigorous exit requirements.
States have the flexibility to report on additional measures, and how to weigh all outcome measures, but must use at least three levels of performance indicators (effective, at-risk, and low-performing).
States (and stakeholders) must design their reporting system in 2016-17 academic year. They may choose to use 2017-18 as a pilot year and the system must be fully implemented in 2018-19. The first year for which any program might lose TEACH grant eligibility will be 2021-2022.
They must engage with stakeholders to develop and/or improve their teacher preparation systems to identify effective and low-performing programs and provide technical assistance to any program rated as low-performing.
The new regulations—which took about five years start to finish –largely reflect the administration’s original proposal from 2014. These regulations, especially language that ties preparation programs to student learning outcomes, faced (and continues to face) huge opposition from many groups. (In their press release, the Department flagged a “notable” change in the final rule was providing states with “increased flexibility in how they measure student learning outcomes and weigh various components of their systems, specifically by allowing states to determine their own student learning outcome measures that are relevant, but not necessarily directly tied, to student achievement or educator evaluation results.”)
In a statement American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education President Sharon Robinson says “ At first glance, it appears that the voices of the profession may have been heard, as the new rule includes some adjustments that reflect concerns raised during the public comment periods. While the main oversight structure remains in place as described in the initial notice of proposed rulemaking, the final rule gives states more leeway in determining some aspects of the accountability system. Therefore, as it is with the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the advocacy of AACTE members at the state level remains critical.”
The American Association of State Colleges and Universities statement notes “AASCU has long opposed a federally mandated state-rating structure for programmatic offerings of colleges and universities. It sets a dangerous precedent for political intervention in academic policy. We are disappointed that the Department did not delay the regulations that address teacher education. We urged them to wait until after Congress, state colleges and universities, and other key stakeholders could work together, through the reauthorization process of the Higher Education Act (HEA), to address the underlying policies and practices around preparing America’s teachers. Additionally we disagree with the department’s view that the regulation will have only a minimal affect on costs for our institutions.”
The rules were roundly condemned by union leaders: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said it was “ludicrous to propose evaluating teacher preparation programs based on the performance of the students taught by a program’s graduates . . . Instead of designing a system to support and improve teacher prep programs, the regulations build on the now-rejected high-stakes testing system established under NCLB and greatly expanded under this administration’s Race to the Top and waiver programs. It’s stunning that the department would evaluate teaching colleges based on the academic performance of the students of their graduates when ESSA—enacted by large bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate last December—prohibited the department from requiring school districts to do that kind of teacher evaluation.”
National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García says the regulations “takes us back to the failed No Child Left Behind days . . . Using P-12 student test data to measure the quality of teacher preparation ignores whether new teachers are more likely to work in schools with limited resources for textbooks, technology, engaging learning experiences such as connections to community projects. It ignores potentially crucial differences between the quality of mentoring available in one school but not in another, class sizes and class loads beginning teachers may encounter, and the availability of supplemental services to ensure that each student can come to class ready to learn.”
Congressional leaders were equally displeased with the final rules. House Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline said in a statement “While more needs to be done to ensure teachers are prepared for the classroom, the department is taking a one-size-fits-all approach that will lead to unintended consequences. It will be impossible to effectively implement this vast regulatory scheme, and it may lead to fewer teachers serving some our nation’s most vulnerable children. And to add insult to injury, this new rule does not reflect the bipartisan consensus that was reached in our recent efforts to improve K-12 education. This is an issue policymakers should discuss and resolve through broader reforms of the Higher Education Act, not through the unilateral actions of the Department of Education.
Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) noted “Today’s regulation appears to violate the Higher Education Act, which specifically says that states—not bureaucrats at a distant department in Washington—are responsible for evaluating whether a college’s program gives teachers the skills they need for the classroom. The regulation also effectively mandates teacher evaluations and forces states to focus on students’ test scores in a way that Congress explicitly rejected just months ago when we fixed No Child Left Behind and its unworkable National School Board approach.”
The regs can be found here.
The press release from the Department of Education can be found here.
Read the letter from the Association for Science Teacher Education on the proposed regulations
Check out this article from Ed Week: Final U.S. Teacher-Prep Regs Allow Flexibility on Student-Outcome Measures and Inside Higher Ed: New Accountability for Teacher Prep
Having a Seat at the Table with ESSA Implementation
ASCD and the National Education Association are jointly hosting a webinar on how educators and key stakeholder groups can get involved in the ESSA implementation process. Hear state and local education leaders talk about their experiences and lessons learned so that you can advocate effectively for the best ESSA-related policies to support schools and students. The webinar will be held 7:30 pm eastern time, Monday, October 17, 2016. Learn more and register to attend here.
New STEM Playbook for State Policymakers
The Education Commission of the States Promising Practices: A State Policymaker’s STEM Playbook, highlights the Utah STEM Action Center, the road to the successful legislation tthat created the center, and the three essential elements to the STEM practices in Utah–coordination, resources, and the evaluation of funded programs. Read more.
Jodi Peterson is Assistant Executive Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. e-mail Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter at @stemedadvocate.