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Teaching Profession

Test Scores Get Less Emphasis in Final Federal Teacher-Preparation Rules

By Brenda Iasevoli — October 12, 2016 2 min read
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Cross-posted from the Teacher Beat blog

The U.S. Department of Education today released its long-awaited final rules on teacher preparation. The rules, first proposed in 2014, aim to hold teacher-training programs accountable for the performance of their graduates, and they make it mandatory for states to provide aspiring teachers a way of pre-evaluating programs.

Under the rules, states will be required each year to rate all of its traditional, alternative and distance prep programs as either effective, at-risk, or as low-performing. They will have to provide additional support to programs rated as low-performing.

The annual ratings are to be based on several metrics, such as the number of graduates who get jobs in high-needs schools, how long these graduates stay in the teaching profession, and how effective they are as teachers, judging from classroom observations as well as their students’ academic performance.

In a major change from the proposed rules—which were subject to heavy criticism from the field—student learning will not have to be based on test scores or the proxy of teacher evaluations based on student performance; rather, states will have the flexibility to use other measures deemed “relevant to student outcomes” and determine how various components of their systems are weighed.

States will also need to consider feedback from graduates and employers on how effective they perceive the program’s training to be. An effective program, according to the rules, is one that gives plenty of on-the-job training and meets “rigorous exit requirements.”

In another change from the draft rules, states will no longer be required to ensure that programs only accept top-performing students, as long as all students are held to a high bar by the program’s end. The aim here is to ensure that prep programs can recruit diverse candidates into the teaching profession.

The new rules also attempt to steer aspiring teachers into the most successful teacher training programs by limiting TEACH grants to only those programs rated effective for at least two years in a row.

Under the rules, states must establish their reporting systems in the 2016-2017 school year, and can use the following school year to test out their systems. All reporting systems must be in effect by 2018-2019 school year. TEACH grant eligibility can be taken away based on program performance beginning in the 2021-2022 school year.

“As an educator, I know that one of the strongest in-school influences on students is the teacher in front of the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a press release. “These regulations will help strengthen teacher preparation so that prospective teachers get off to the best start they can, and preparation programs can meet the needs of students and schools for great educators.”

Stayed tuned for additional analysis and reaction from the field.