Politics & Government

Education Department to ask states to rate teacher training programs

The Department of Education on Tuesday announced proposed regulations to measure the quality of teacher preparation programs.

“Too often (teachers) struggle at the beginning of their careers and have to figure out too much on the job for themselves,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a call with reporters. Studies show many teacher training programs have lower grading standards than other programs at the same universities, he added.

Duncan said other schools should follow the examples of schools such as Arizona State University Teachers College, which raised the bar for incoming students.

The proposed regulations would require states to determine how to measure whether new teachers are effective and whether they remain in the profession and serve in high-need schools. The rules also would require teachers and principals to report about the effectiveness of their training. The education preparation programs also would have to be accredited.

The proposed rules were published on Tuesday. The department will take public comments for 60 days and plans to publish a final rule by September 2015, Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said. The first year of state data collection would be the 2016-17 school year. States would be required to rate teacher training programs and make the information available to the public by April 2018.

North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Louisiana are among the first states that already collect information about teacher preparation programs and their graduates and provide it to the public, Duncan said.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the new regulations were a step toward rating teacher preparation programs partly on the basis of test scores of students in kindergarten through high school. She said the administration instead should “move away from the excessive use of high-stakes testing and its consequences.”

“Teacher preparation programs that send graduates to teach in high-need schools, where research shows the test scores are likely to be lower and the teacher turnover higher, will receive lower ratings and could lose funding,” Weingarten said in a statement.

"Look at it this way: Would you rate the dental school programs that serve low-income communities, where patients come in with a high number of cavities, unsatisfactory? No. Would you give those programs the support needed to best serve these communities? Of course. The teaching profession needs to become more aligned with medical and legal models and less attached to the factory model,” she said.

Duncan, responding to a reporter question during the news briefing, said the measurement was about how much students were improving.

Mitchell said student test scores would be part of the way that teacher training programs are evaluated. “We’re going to encourage states to use multiple measures of student learning in assessing program quality,” he said.