The National Alliance joined a coalition of 23 leaders in the education reform movement in issuing a letter calling for the Obama Administration to seek public comments on its draft Higher Education Act (HEA) rules which would shine a spotlight on teacher preparation program quality, programs that receive approximately $4 billion each year from the federal government. These draft regulations were released in early 2012 but haven’t moved forward since then.
In order to address concerns with the quality of teacher preparation programs and to identify high quality, as well as low-performing programs, the U.S. Department of Education proposed rules that would require states to:
1. Meaningfully assess teacher preparation program performance; and
2. Hold programs accountable for results.
The rule-making panel didn’t agree on all points, but did agree that the quality of a teacher preparation program should be directly linked to the student outcomes of their graduates. The next step in the process is for the U.S. Department to issue the proposed rules for public comment, but they are apparently stuck in the Administration’s clearance process.
Whether a school is a traditional or public charter school, teacher quality matters. Teacher preparation programs play a critical role in preparing teachers for success in the classroom. Effective teachers are the single most important school-based factor in student learning and are critical to successful schools. Particularly in high-poverty schools, teachers can mean the difference between students meeting grade level expectations or falling farther behind. The stakes are too high for students; teacher preparation programs should be held accountable for not preparing teachers well.
Despite requirements that have been in current law for more than 10 years, for states to assess teacher preparation programs and identify the lowest performers, less than 3 percent of all colleges and universities with teacher training programs have been identified as low-performing, and most states have never identified a single low-performing program.
Now is the time to move forward with meaningful reporting and accountability to ensure that low-performing teacher preparation programs are improved.
Christine Wolfe is a senior policy advisor at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.