NAICU Washington Update

Changes for Teacher Education Brewing in March and April

March 12, 2013

It has been nearly a year since the controversial negotiated rulemaking panel on teacher education concluded its work.  Although new regulations that could turn the role of the federal government in assessing programs on its head were expected last summer, there has been radio silence from the administration about its plans for the better part of a year. Now, however, there are new rumors floating in Washington that the administration’s efforts to more directly link teacher education program quality to unproven ideas such as the value-added testing systems of K-12 schools may emerge on several platforms this spring - and not just in the federal regulatory process. Colleges with teacher preparation programs will need to act on several fronts if they want to influence the movement. 

New Accreditation Standards

The newly formed Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) released draft recommendations for new accreditation standards on February 22, and is accepting public comments on its recommendations until March 29, 2013. CAEP is the newly merged entity of the former NCATE and TEAC organizations, and is the body responsible for specialized accreditation for teacher preparation programs. Part of CAEP’s plan is to gain recognition by the Secretary of Education, and to go before NACIQI (National Advisory Council on Institutional Quality and Integrity) for federal approval. CAEP’s executive director, Jim Cibulka, was a member of last year’s failed teacher education negotiated rulemaking panel.

The draft recommendations seem to revisit some of the same controversial topics discussed during last year’s negotiated rulemaking session. In particular, the draft recommendations highlight the use of value-added assessments linked to teacher data; student learning outcomes as a measure for program quality; rating programs by differentiated levels of accreditation; completer, employer, and student surveys on the quality of teachers; selectivity in teacher candidates; and graduation rates. NAICU strongly encourages colleges and their education deans to review the recommendations and submit comments to CAEP by the March 29 deadline.

ED Regs in March?

Rumors are flying that the Department of Education plans to issue its long-awaited proposed regulations on Title II teacher preparation and TEACH grants sometime in March. No one knows whether the regulations will be an improvement over the controversial drafts the Department put forward to rulemaking negotiators last April, or whether last year’s problems will remain.

There were four major concerns with last spring’s draft regulations:

  • Use of value-added assessments for teacher preparation programs
  • Imposition of federally-mandated state criteria for teacher program assessment
  • Rating programs with “meaningful differentiation” within states, based on the federally mandated state criteria
  • Linking student aid eligibility and program quality

When the regulations are issued, NAICU will ask members to respond to the Department of Education draft, addressing these and other issues.

NCTQ Report Due in April

The National Council on Teacher Quality works with U. S. News & World Report to issue critical reports on the state of teacher preparation programs each year. Its next report is expected to be released in early April. For months, NAICU members have reported increasingly aggressive attempts by NCTQ to gather information from colleges of education, including paying straw students to try to obtain individual course reading lists for NCTQ to use in grading a program’s quality, and pressuring state agencies to strong-arm schools to make available the information NCTQ seeks.

NCTQ generally uses whatever information it gets to give poor ratings to colleges based on what many consider invalid or nonexistent standards, leading some of the nation’s premier education schools to refuse to cooperate in the rankings system. NCTQ’s lack of valid standards has led the Association of American Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) to issue recommendations to its members on how to handle the aggressive tactics.

Because many private colleges decided not to participate in the ranking survey, last October NCTQ launched an ad campaign in student newspapers calling attention to programs that would not respond. NAICU-member public relations officials should be prepared for another round of attacks when the NCTQ report is issued.

A Ray of Hope

The Washington view of teacher preparation programs is based on stereotypes from a generation ago: that schools of education are “cash cows” for colleges, and lack quality standards. Current policy conversations often do not reflect, nor attempt to build upon, the significant reforms many colleges have made in teacher education. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced legislation last fall that seeks to encourage a more productive approach. The Reed-Honda bill would push colleges to make the types of program changes that are revolutionizing teacher education on many campuses.

Among the key components of effective change are accountability based upon valid and reliable research, evaluations based upon multiple measures, data for improvement rather than punitive purposes, and the active participation of states that are principally responsible for teacher preparation. Reed and Honda are planning to reintroduce their bill this spring, providing a potential platform for collaborative engagement between colleges and government that is built upon proven ideas.

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