House Plan Demands More Data on Teacher Training
States and postsecondary institutions that train teachers would be required to report information detailing the credentials of prospective teachers under a plan passed by the House last week.
The provision, sponsored by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., passed by voice vote as an amendment to the Higher Education Act, which governs federal teacher training programs and most financial aid for college students. Lawmakers were not expected to vote on the reauthorization of the act in its entirety until this week.
By toughening reporting requirements, Mr. Miller's amendment is intended to push both states and colleges to reform teacher training.
"We very often hear that we do not pay teachers enough or we do not treat them like professionals," Mr. Miller said during a debate on the House floor. "But until such time as we have the quality standards to gain the confidence of the American people, it is likely that we will continue to underpay our teachers."
The data-gathering that would be provided through Mr. Miller's amendment is a "very good way to begin" to improve schools of education, said Penelope Earley, the senior director of the Washington-based American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
Mr. Miller's "Better Teachers" amendment barely resembled the version he presented to the House education committee in March.
In the original draft, schools of education would have lost federal funds for student aid if they failed to meet national accreditation standards or if 70 percent of their graduates failed to pass state or local licensure requirements.
Rep. Bill Goodling, the Republican from Pennsylvania who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said that approach was "too arbitrary given that nearly all states have different tests which they require for teacher licensure."
Under the current amendment, which Mr. Goodling supports, federal support for schools of education would be jeopardized only if a state withdrew its funding first.
By requiring that education schools make public the percentages of their graduates who pass state licensure exams, Mr. Miller's amendment would also spur healthy competition between programs, Mr. Goodling said.
In related action, the House passed an amendment that would raise the cap on federal funding of proposed new state block grants designed to improve the quality of the teaching force.
In March, the House education committee approved a plan to pay for the block grants by redirecting the $18.5 million in federal aid that goes to the privately organized National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. ("Committee Cuts Funds for Teaching-Standards Board," March 25, 1998.)
Though the provision to cut the teaching board's aid remains, the House last week increased the maximum amount that could be spent on the block grants to $250 million.
With the higher limit, the House plan more closely resembles the $300 million in block grants for teacher training proposed by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. The full Senate is expected to vote on the proposal in the next two weeks.