Last week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced new regulations that will require teacher preparation programs to be more transparent about their effectiveness across a number of measures. According to the ED, these regulations seek to improve outcomes for teacher preparation programs while still affording states the flexibility to determine specifically how performance is measured. These regulations are part of Title II of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965 and they make changes to the existing teacher preparation program accountability system.
The ED’s press release highlighted several key data points that programs will need to report on annually. Teacher preparation programs will be required to report on the placement and retention rates of their recent graduates, including specifically how they fare in high-needs schools. Programs will also be required to report feedback they receive from graduates and employers about their level of satisfaction with teacher preparation. Student outcomes will be linked to novice teachers in the form of test scores, teacher evaluation scores, and other measures identified by states. Programs will also need to report other characteristics of their recent graduates, such as their content and pedagogical knowledge along with their clinical preparation. Reporting systems will be designed in 2016-17 with the option to pilot in 2017-18, and should be fully implemented in 2018-19. The complete set of new regulations can be found here.
What This May Mean for Michigan
The Michigan Department of Education has not yet made any formal announcement as to how the state will respond to these new regulations. However, the state’s current performance evaluation system may give some clues as to what Michigan’s reaction will be. For several years, the state has been using Educator Preparation Institution (EPI) Performance Scores to evaluate teacher preparation programs. Reports from 2016 show that programs in Michigan are given scores in three domains: performance on the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC), survey responses from teacher candidates and supervisors, and teacher evaluation scores of new teachers. These three measures are averaged together to create an overall score for each teacher preparation program in the state and programs must exceed a given cut score to be deemed satisfactory.
Teacher preparation programs in Michigan are already evaluated based on the MTTC scores of their recent graduates.
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These domains already touch on a number of the regulations laid out by the ED. MTTC scores measure graduates’ content knowledge; surveys measure program effectiveness; and trends in evaluation scores are also being considered. As a result, it is possible that the state will not need to make too many changes in order to meet the ED’s requirements.
Michigan Will Need to Set a Higher Bar to See Real Change
While Michigan may not need to make all that many changes to their current accountability system to comply with the new ED regulations, I question just how rigorous the state’s current evaluation process is. In 2016, EPI scores were assigned to 33 teacher preparation programs and only 5 of these programs (Baker College, Marygrove College, Siena Heights University, University of Detroit Mercy, and University of Michigan – Flint) did not make the cut score of 84.5 out of 100 possible points.
With such an overwhelming majority of programs receiving satisfactory labels, we are selling ourselves short. While I do not believe that EPI scores should serve an unnecessarily punitive role, it is time we set a higher bar for our state’s teacher preparation programs. Michigan consistently performs below the national average on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), a nationwide set of tests administered to students across the country in a number of subject areas. In 2015, Michigan ranked 42nd in fourth grade math, 41st in fourth grade reading, 38th in eighth grade math, and 31st in eighth grade reading. Given these rankings, Michigan is in no position to be complacent with the quality of its teacher preparation programs. Let’s hope that the ED’s new regulations challenge Michigan to set a higher bar on teacher preparation.
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