NAICU Washington Update

Teacher Ed Bill Not That "GREAT"

July 13, 2011

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), along with some influential education colleagues, has introduced S. 1250, the Growing Education Achievement Training Academies for Teachers and Principals Act (GREAT).  Others supporting the measure are Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) from the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who sits on the education appropriations subcommittee.

The bill, introduced June 22, looks at reforming teacher preparation programs by allowing states to apply for grants to set up "Teacher and Principal Preparation Academies." The academies are basically charter colleges of education.

One of the biggest concerns in the higher education community is that, as defined in the bill, these academies could award certificates treated as equivalent to master's degrees.  However, the academies would not have to meet the same requirements as institutions of higher education.  In essence, the bill gives states the authority to create an academic credential.

NAICU, along with other higher education associations, signed on to a letter to Congress, still in process, by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education outlining concerns with the bill.  Some of those, beyond the academic credential issue already noted, are: 

  • The "State Authorizer" provision in the bill would include nonprofit organizations, state educational agencies, or other public entities.  However, there is no clear role for institutions of higher education, which prepare 90 per cent of all new teachers.

  • The bill doesn't require partnerships with Pre-K-12 schools during preparation or clinical experience. 

  • For "flexibility," the bill prohibits basic requirements such as number of course credits required, accreditation, advanced degrees for faculty, and clinical standards.

  • It would allow principals and teachers to serve as independent practitioners in the classroom before they have completed their programs.

  • The bill would use AmeriCorps funding help pay for student participation in the charter academies.

Beyond these narrower points, the community also sees the charter academies as duplicating teacher-preparation reform already underway through Teacher Quality Partnership Grants (under Title II of HEA).  Unlike TQP efforts, though, the academies wouldn't require teachers to serve in schools after completing the program, nor would they require the 100-percent funding match colleges must put toward their TQP programs.

MORE News from NAICU