Teacher Preparation

As Congress considers a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, teacher pay, teacher shortages, and teacher strikes continue to attract attention. In general, Democrats are revisiting accountability legislation that mirrors controversial Obama-era regulations that were never implemented and Republicans may look to reduce the federal role in teacher preparation.

House Democrats included in H. R. 4674, the College Affordability Act passed by the House Education and Labor Committee, a “pupil-teacher-program” metric to determine “low-performing” or “at-risk” programs on state teacher preparation program report cards. This evaluation construct was also in the Obama-era regulations and links the quality of a teacher preparation program to how well the children its graduates teach do on standardized tests.  The outcome is linked to whether or not a teacher preparation program has Title IV TEACH Grant eligibility.

In contrast, in 2017, House Republicans’ PROSPER Act, H. R. 4508, eliminated Title II teacher preparation grants and state report cards. Currently in the Senate, Republicans and Democrats are reportedly working together to find common ground on expanding the grant program, and updating accountability report cards, but language is not yet available.

NAICU continues to support a federal investment to improve teacher preparation programs and disseminate best practices in the teaching profession without burdensome regulations or punitive accountability metrics.

Recent History

On March 27, 2017, President Trump signed H.J. Res. 58 into law, repealing the Obama Administration’s final regulations to create federal rules for teacher education programs.  The bipartisan concern about these regulations put them on the short list for repeal under the Congressional Review Act, resulting in the House passing the resolution by a vote of 240-181, and the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 59-40. Passage of the repeal ensured the regulations were not implemented, and that similar regulations would not be promulgated in the future. 

NAICU supported the repeal of the teacher preparation regulations as the final rule included a performance rating system based on federal criteria, enforced by states, and linked those criteria to program eligibility for TEACH Grants. Among the greatest concerns was that program quality will not be enhanced by the federal government establishing a profession’s quality standards while ignoring cutting-edge practices.

NAICU submitted a letter to Representatives Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), and a letter to Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), and the other Senate co-sponsors, in support of the resolution.


The education reform movement, data-driven decision-making, state standards-setting, and outcomes-based assessments all come to a confluence in current policy conversations on teacher education. Teacher preparation programs are seen as a key piece in the puzzle of fixing our nation’s K-12 public schools. These programs—whether federally funded or not—are under increased scrutiny to ensure their graduates are high-quality, and the students they teach can perform well on outcomes-based assessments.

Overview of 2016 Teacher Preparation Regulations 

When it released the final teacher preparation regulations, the Department highlighted state flexibility and eased back from some of the previously proposed mandates.

Four key points from the Obama Administration rule: 

  • Value-added metrics are not mandated, but are inherent in suggested program performance evaluations;
  • ​Some overly prescriptive definitions proposed in draft regulations were tempered, particularly the elimination of “rigorous entry requirements” which would have created a disadvantage for colleges that serve students with lower high-school GPAs or standardized test scores, no matter how strong the institution’s teacher education program;
  • Federal over-reach into institutional quality standards and state control remain a concern; and
  • ​Overall Title IV institutional eligibility is not at risk because of the outcome measures in teacher education. There has been confusion about whether these regulations put Pell Grant and student loan eligibility at risk for an entire institution. The final regulations would have determined the TEACH Grant eligibility of each specific program within an institution’s education school. Only teacher preparation programs deemed low-performing or at-risk, that have also lost state funding or state certification, would have been prohibited from enrolling Title IV (Pell and loans) recipients in those programs.

NAICU also developed additional detail and analysis, which tracks against the comments NAICU submitted to the Department in 2015.  

What You Can Do

Communicate with your congressional delegation about your teacher preparation program and:
  • Highlight the features that make them effective—such as partnerships with local public schools, or continuous program improvement based on the latest professional research findings.
  • Talk about the many ways your programs have evolved over the last decade, as well as your program’s role in helping to fill local teacher staffing needs.
  • Explain how your state teacher preparation accountability systems (if appropriate) have included local stakeholders to address local goals and reflect cutting-edge practices in the profession. 
  • Explain why strict federal rules to lock in current practices will limit, not enhance, future quality improvements and experimentation.

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