Written by: Dave Reid
Primary Source: Green & Write, March 17, 2016
In a recent post on Education Week Michigan State University (MSU) professors Dr. Corey Drake and Dr. Terry Flennaugh voiced their concerns over equity problems with new teacher preparation program (TPP) accountability measures.
Other scholars have also weighed in, voicing their opinions on how recent legislation may impact TPPs, with a particular focus on how TPPs should be held accountable for their graduates.
Monitoring Teacher Preparation Programs
Federal TPP accountability requirements have been in place since 1998 when the Higher Education Act (HEA) began requiring states to report on the effectiveness of their TPPs. This reporting included teacher licensing scores and the number of teachers training in high-needs areas, such as science, math, and special education.
However, since the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) proposed new measures to hold teacher preparation programs (TPPs) more accountable for their graduates, opponents have voiced concerns about these ideas, arguing that the new accountability measures go too far.
New legislation proposed by the USDOE continues the HEA requirements, but includes several important changes: 1) states must use a federally mandated report; 2) states must label programs in one of four categories (low-performing, at risk, effective, or exceptional); and 3) all TPPs must produce evidence on their graduates’ impact on student achievement.
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TPPs are required to gather survey data from its graduates and the districts where they are hired, as well as placement and retention rates. Additionally, under the new legislation, TPPs would need to provide proof that their graduates are promoting student achievement once they begin their teaching career.
TPPs that fail to meet this criteria would be subject to penalties, including reduced financial aid for their students, and a reduction of TEACH grants. TEACH grants provide up to $4,000 a year to support teachers who get their teaching degree in high-need subject areas and who teach in low-income schools.
The Biggest Challenge
Perhaps the biggest controversy in this new legislation is tying TPPs effectiveness to the impact its graduates have on increasing student achievement. Research is mixed on whether value-added measures can accurately assess TPP quality. Additionally, critics argue that tying financial-aid to the rankings is unfair, because a large amount of the rankings are out of the control of the TPPs, such as working conditions at the candidates placement school and how long a teacher remains in the classroom.
A Community Effort
It is commonly acknowledged that improving the quality of the teaching workforce is the most effective way to positively impact student outcomes. Because of this, there is a constant conversation around how to most effectively and efficiently improve the quality of teachers in our nation’s schools.
While TPPs certainly play a large role in the development of future teachers who enter the workforce, the responsibility cannot fall on TPPs and their graduates alone. Improving teacher licensure exams and early career teacher support through mentoring are other ways to help improve the other quality of the teaching workforce. Additionally, schools can support recent TPP graduates by offering ongoing support throughout a new teacher’s early years in the classroom. This support can come from administrators, professional development, and chances for new teachers to learn from their more experienced peers through observation and collaboration.
Additionally, focusing on graduates of TPPs only does not account for the work done by the faculty and other members of the TPP community.
As Dr. Drake and Dr. Flennaugh write, “To judge a preparation program solely by the work of its graduates and not also by the work of its practitioners—the faculty—is to miss an important aspect of what it means to be an effective teacher-preparation program. Focusing only on limited measures of the output of a program’s graduates puts unreasonable expectations for profound change and system disruption—including of privilege and power—on novice teachers solely, rather than on a community of novice and experienced teachers and teacher-educators working together to effect change.”
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