Teaching Profession Opinion

Teacher Prep Accountability Is Coming, and That’s Important

By Sara Mead — April 04, 2012 2 min read

If you haven’t already, you should really, really read my fellow Ed Week blogger Stephen Sawchuck’s exemplary coverage of what’s happening with the negotiated rulemaking for HEA Title II, which addresses teacher preparation programs. Basically, the feds want to grade teacher prep programs on a mix of measures that include their graduates’ impact on student learning, and they want to allow an institution’s students to receive federal TEACH grants--additional student aid for students who plan to go into teaching--only if they receive higher grades.

The details here may sound boring and tedious, but this is actually really important for two reasons:

First, even as states and school districts at the K-12 level are moving to adopt evaluations that hold teachers accountable for their impacts on student learning, these efforts have largely ignored the need to improve teacher preparation programs so that their graduates are actually prepared to improve student learning. And the poor quality of most existing teacher evaluation programs is one the few things that folks on both sides of the increasingly polarized ed reform debates can agree upon. If we want to move the teacher effectiveness debate beyond deselection, we’ve got to get serious about how to make teacher prep way more effective. That’s starting to happen, and the growing number of efforts to look hard at teacher prep quality--including these federal policies, the NCTQ-U.S. News collaboration to rate teacher prep programs, and this NSF-funded effort--are something to keep an eye on going forward.

Second, accountability for teacher prep programs is a potential foot in the door for broader outcomes accountability in higher education, because there’s such an obvious public interest here and at least some potential for agreement on what outcomes we want to measure (although, as Sawchuck’s piece makes clear, there’s less consensus than one might thought).

Obviously, higher ed institutions aren’t that psyched about being held more accountable for their teacher prep programs. The very first issue I worked on in education policy involved the development of regulations for the previous iteration of HEA Title II. That law required--horror of horrors--that institutions publicly report on whether teacher prep programs’ graduates were passing far-from-demanding licensure exams that enabled them to get jobs in the field they were paying these institutions to prepare them for. It’s hard to imagine a lower bar, but of course, the programs resisted ardently, and then found loopholes to largely circumvent the intent of the requirements. But efforts like the NCTQ-U.S. News and NSF efforts suggest that some degree of greater transparency and attention to teacher prep results is coming regardless. Teacher prep programs better start getting used to it.

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The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.