Teacher Preparation

Differing Viewpoints on Teacher Preparation Reflected in New Bills

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 31, 2013 2 min read
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Last week, federal lawmakers reintroduced a pair of bills relating to teacher-preparation programs and accountability, in what gives an interesting glimpse into what debates on this topic are likely to feature in the coming weeks and months.

The first bill, known as the GREAT Act, was introduced May 23 in the House by Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.), and in the Senate by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). Find previous EdWeek summaries of the bill hereand here. The bill, crafted with help from theNew Schools Venture Fund, would support training “academies” both inside and outside of traditional higher education institutions. But the idea is clearly modeled on the latter, like the Relay Graduate School of Education or Match Teacher Residency. (Think of these academies a bit like the ed. school equivalent of charters.) The bill would free academies from the regulatory structure of higher-education based programs, but require the programs to grant credentials only to candidates who show they can boost student achievement before graduating.

The second bill, known as the Educator Preparation Reform Act, introduced the same day, is sponsored by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) It’s supported mainly by groups representing higher education institutions, including the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Association of Universities, and the American Council on Education. I sketched out the parameters of that bill here.

The legislation would support the existing Teacher Quality Partnerships initiative—which supports higher-ed. based teacher-preparation programs—make changes to the rules governing the federal accountability requirements for teacher prep, and give programs an option of using a performance assessment to show candidates are ready for the classroom.

It is not difficult to see in these two pieces of legislation the outlines in Washington of two competing—and very different—visions of how the feds should be involved in teacher preparation.

The first comes out of a philosophy of “disruptive innovation,” or freeing up teacher preparation from things like Carnegie units and faculty research requirements and tenure; the second, an approach of working within the existing structures and policies of teacher education. The first is supported by advocacy groups and organizations typically lumped in the so-called “education reform” camp; the second by groups that have tended to be skeptical of such efforts.

While this may all seem rather esoteric, the reintroduction on these measures matters partly because they give an indication of the contours of the debates on the Higher Education Act, which is up for renewal. (Neither of the proposals is likely to move on its own; typically, measures of this sort are attached to larger pieces of legislation like HEA.)

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