Teacher Preparation

AFT Mounts Strong Opposition to Federal Teacher-Prep Proposal

By Stephen Sawchuk — January 30, 2015 2 min read
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The comment period on the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations for teacher preparation closes Feb. 2. There are already more than 2,300 comments in the queue, largely from teachers and independent colleges. As is often the case, most of the “heavy hitters” —the Washington-based associations with a strong lobbying presence—are still putting the finishing touches on their letters.

One of the first such groups to put out its comments is the American Federation of Teachers, which had already come out swinging against this proposal. As early as the first week of January, the 1.6 million-member union had been sending out “e-blasts” encouraging members to write in against them. This past week, it hosted a panel discussion with the Howard University school of education, the main thrust of which was that the regulations might harm institutions like Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs) that prepare many teachers of color.

Now, in its letter, the union says that the proposal provides for accountability without fundamental reforms to teacher preparation.

“The department is opting to follow the same old measure-and-punish accountability model that has been imposed on K-12 education. The results are predictable: Students who need the most support, and the teacher-pepraration programs that send teachers to serve those students, are most likely to be harmed by these regulations,” the union contends.

Specifically, the union contends that the rules:

  • Establish metrics for rating programs, like teacher retention and growth in student test scores, that would disproportionately affect programs serving minority, low-income, and high-needs students;
  • Would give unfair advantage to alternative certification;
  • Put high stakes on measures like surveys and test scores that aren’t designed for them;
  • Don’t promote teacher diversity.

The letter references AFT’s own “Raising the Bar” teacher-preparation proposal, which endorsed higher entry and exit standards and a common “bar exam"-like final assessment. (To be clear, though, the rank-and-file don’t seem quite so supportive of this idea, given that they repudiated one such licensing exam, the edTPA, this past year.)

Also to be fair, the Obama administration has proposed putting funding into the authorized-but-never financed Hawkins Centers of Excellence program, which would boost preparation at minority-serving institutions; but Congress hasn’t taken it up on that.

The National Education Association, meanwhile, doesn’t appear to be much of a fan of the federal rules, either, but its opposition has been somewhat quieter.

As you start to peruse all of the comments, it’s worth reading the template document produced by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which has formed the backbone of a lot of its members’ submissions. The AACTE will be finalizing its own set full comments in short order, too.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.