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Published in Print: January 9, 2002, as Online Report Cards for Teacher Programs Draw Heavy Response

Online Report Cards for Teacher Programs Draw Heavy Response

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More than 7,000 people rushed late last fall to log on to a new Department of Education Web site that is intended to illuminate the quality of the nation's teacher-preparation programs and their graduates. The heavy first-day response both surprised and pleased federal administrators.

The site, www.title2.org, which was launched Nov. 29, provides report cards on 1,300 public and private colleges that train teachers. The documents offer state-by-state rankings of institutions, passing rates on teacher assessments, and state standards for educators, among other data.

The response "shows that there is interest and concern out there about the quality of our new teachers," said James J. Noell, the director of quality improvement and strategic planning for the department. "The hits are still relatively high—2,000 a day."

Creation of the Web site helped fulfill the provisions of a 1998 federal mandate that institutions be held accountable for the quality of their graduates.

Under Title II of the Higher Education Act, all colleges receiving federal aid and the state governments to which they report must detail the results of certification tests given to prospective teachers, institutional curricula, and state regulations.

Putting It Together

In the spring of 2001, colleges and universities were required to submit data on their institutions and students to the states; last fall, the states analyzed that information and formalized a second report card that was submitted to the Education Department.

Federal administrators are now conducting an analysis of the information posted on the Web site and will submit a final report to Congress by April, as required, Mr. Noell said. The report will examine national trends, he said.

Congress required the report cards in response to contentions that teacher-preparation programs are to blame for academic weaknesses in the teaching workforce. ("Teacher Ed. Riled Over Federal Plan," Aug. 4, 1999.)

In an attempt to ensure the quality of programs and their graduates, the federal legislators required that the following information be placed into report cards compiled by the states:

  • Data on each teacher-preparation program, including the number of students who take state assessments, the number passing, and the ranking of each school in one of four quartiles;
  • The number of educators currently teaching on licensure waivers;
  • Information on alternative routes into the profession and passing rates on certification tests of those who used such routes;
  • Certification and licensure requirements;
  • Procedures for evaluating programs and criteria for identifying and providing help to low- performing schools; and
  • Plans for improving the quality of teaching in each state.

Many who have coordinated state Title II activities say the law has been a catalyst for improving teacher-preparation programs.

The report cards have helped colleges better understand their strengths and weaknesses, said Marjorie L. Blaze, who coordinates Ohio's Title II efforts.

She cautioned, however, against using report cards to compare states and teacher- preparation programs.

"Each state has their own testing program and sets their own [passing rates]," Ms. Blaze said, "so it isn't very accurate" to make comparisons.

Vol. 21, Issue 16, Page 22

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