Teacher Preparation

Bid to Spike Federal Teacher-Preparation Regs Fails

By Stephen Sawchuk — December 16, 2015 2 min read
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An attempt by advocates to stop the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed teacher-preparation regulations from going into effect seems to have failed, for now.

Groups like the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education had lobbied hard for the federal spending bill to include language preventing the department from trying to “promulgate, implement, administer, or enforce the proposed rule establishing a teacher preparation program accountability system.

If you couldn’t already tell from that, the AACTE and most teacher-preparation programs really, really don’t like the proposed regulations, which would require states to classify programs into categories, from “low performing” to “exceptional,” based on measures including student test scores and surveys of candidates and districts.

The rider prohibiting the regs was included in draft spending bills crafted by both the House and Senate education committees. But the final omnibus bill unveiled today doesn’t include it. (Omnibus is a fancy term that just means that all the spending is smooshed into one big bill, rather than in the 12 smaller bills that are supposed to fund federal agencies.)

The measure has already passed the House and is expected to clear the Senate in short order without many changes.

Overall, all this gives the Education Department the green light to release its regs. They are supposed to drop this month, although the department hasn’t given many hints about when. (My guess is two days before Christmas, since the last major movement on these regulations was two days before Thanksgiving last year. Grab the eggnog!)

It’s hard to tell, of course, what was on Congress’ mind in pulling this out of the omnibus. For one, the prohibition on these regs was wrapped up in other complicated policy riders affecting higher ed., like the gainful-employment rules. Or perhaps Congress is merely waiting to take up the Higher Education Act—the law that gives the department the power to regulate this area at all—to address teacher-preparation issues. We’ll have to stay tuned.

UPDATE, 12/16: Here’s a statement from the AACTE on the omnibus bill: “AACTE is disappointed that the policy rider addressing the Department’s proposed teacher preparation program regulations was not included in the omnibus; however, we are pleased to see the Teacher Quality Partnerships—the only federal dollars to reform teacher preparation—received a $3 million increase. We now will turn our attention to improving the Higher Education Act through reauthorization next year.”

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