Teacher Colleges, States Granted Report Card Extensions
The Department of Education gave colleges and states a yearlong extension last week on completing federally mandated report cards detailing how their teacher-preparation programs fare.
At least one key lawmaker, however, charged that the department was playing a game of teacher's pet, catering to institutions and states staring down tough assignments.
"The administration just gave into pressure," Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat and a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said in an interview. "Many of these schools would be very embarrassed over [students'] ability to pass state teacher exams and requirements," said Mr. Miller, a co-author of the legislation.
Education Department officials contend that the deadlines were changed to provide more time for both public input and data collection, a difficult process that requires institutions and states to finance and conduct expansive studies on past and future graduates.
"The issue is much more complex underneath the surface than it appears," said A. Lee Fritschler, the department's assistant secretary for postsecondary education. "We're dealing with 30, 40, 50 sets of data. Some states have never collected data at all."
Two types of report cards are required by the National Center for Education Statistics, the arm of the Education Department responsible for implementing the law to comply with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 1998.
The first report cards must be completed by colleges and are to outline individual teacher-preparation programs. The new date they are due to the states is April 2001. The second report cards, to be completed by states, are required to rank colleges according to the percentage of prospective teachers who pass state exams. Those are due to the federal Education Department in October 2001. Both types of report cards will be submitted later that year for an annual review by Congress and the public.
The congressional mandate to make states and higher education more accountable for the quality of teacher programs came after years of complaints that schools and colleges of education have been unwilling to make the changes necessary to turn out competent educators. The regulations will affect the approximately 1,300 colleges and universities with teacher-preparation programs that receive federal aid.
Since the publication of the guidelines last summer, higher education officials have been arguing that the rules, though in the Federal Register, are not easily accessible to administrators and state leaders. Because of that, few said they understood the rules, knew what data to collect, or how to collect it. ("Teacher Ed. Riled Over Federal Plan," Aug. 4, 1999.)
By the time the final federal guidelines are published in March, higher education officials say, there will be insufficient time to compile the required information, even with the extension of the deadlines.
"It is absolutely unrealistic to just turn around and have this data," said Penelope Earley, the senior director of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, a Washington-based association of 735 public and private schools. "Even in the [new] time given, that's pushing it.
"Even the department has said it will literally cost millions of dollars for both institutions and states to comply with this," Ms. Earley added.
"The time frame was unrealistic from the very beginning," said Jean Miller, the director of the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium for the Council of Chief State School Officers. INTASC is creating professional standards for beginning teachers.
Rep. Miller maintains that such complaints are unfounded.
"This is public information that is readily available," Mr. Miller said. "It is time that [institutions] own up to their failures and that we improve them."
Vol. 19, Issue 21, Page 27