A gold star for keeping teacher preparation regulations promise
After a long process, President Barack Obama can finally say he fulfilled this 2008 campaign promise: "Create a voluntary national performance assessment for educators." In our last update, we rated this In the Works.
On Oct. 12, 2016, the U.S. Education Department released new guidelines for teacher preparation programs.
They give states more power to create accountability programs to measure teacher preparation effectiveness. Every year, states must rank each preparation program from among at least three categories, such as "effective," "at risk," or "low-performing."
Programs not ranked "effective" will lose TEACH funding, which helps teachers in low-income areas teach high-need subjects. The Education Department said this is for "incentivizing aspiring teachers in a high-need field or in a low-income school to attend high-quality programs."
States are also required to report annually on programs' graduation and retention rates, feedback from graduates and their employers, and the "learning outcomes" of the students taught by the new graduates of the teacher preparation programs.
This seems at odds with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in December 2015, which reduced the effect student performance had on teachers. However, the new rules don't specify student performance must be based off tests, only "learning outcomes."
In a statement, Sharon Robinson, president and CEO of American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education said, "The release of this rule provides a catalyst at the state level to generate data regarding our graduates' impact in the classroom and inform continuous program improvement."
She also expressed concern about the rating systems.
"It should be noted that this rule makes the unprecedented move to link eligibility for federal student financial aid to yet-to-be-designed state rating systems," Robinson said.
Other groups also addressed the apparent difference with ESSA's move away from testing.
"In conflict with the recently enacted, bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, the regulations call for an expansion of student assessments to include 'nontested grades and subjects,' a policy that was clearly rejected by Congress in the new law," said a statement of 29 organizations representing elementary and high schools, state governments, and other groups.
Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, supported the new regulations.
"Successful teachers today know there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to teaching in their classrooms," Levine said. "As we look to K-12 teachers to personalize instruction and deliver student-focused instruction, so too should we look to our education schools and teacher preparation programs to deliver personalized learning to aspiring teachers."
States will design their reporting systems during the 2016-17 school year and the new regulations will be put fully into effect during the 2018-19 academic year.
Obama promised to "create a voluntary national performance assessment for educators." While that exact phrasing is not used, the new regulations do address teacher education regulation and oversight. We rate this Promise Kept.
Education Department, Teacher Prep Final Regulations, Oct. 12, 2016
Education Department, Improving Teacher Preparation: Building on Innovation, Oct. 12, 2016
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, AACTE Urges Scrutiny of Final Version of Federal Regulations for Teacher Preparation Programs, Oct. 12, 2016
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Coalition Statement on Final Teacher Preparation Program Regulations, Oct, 20, 2016
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Levine: Final Teacher Ed Regs "Needed Step Forward" in Ensuring Teacher Prep Programs are Readying Educators for Schools of Tomorrow, Oct. 12, 2016
PolitiFact, Rulemaking process is under way, Nov. 16, 2012
NPR, Holding Ed Schools Accountable For The Teachers They Teach, Oct. 14, 2016
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Federal Regulations for Teacher Preparation Programs, Oct. 20, 2016
Rulemaking process is under way
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama said that his administration would "create a voluntary national performance assessment so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively."
When we asked the Education Department about the status of this promise, a spokeswoman said the issue is currently in the midst of rulemaking -- an often drawn-out process under which a federal agency proposes a new standard, then seeks input from various interest groups, refines its proposal, and ultimately makes the rule official.
The department kicked off the rulemaking process with an official notice posted on Oct. 26, 2011. Broadly, the subject of the rulemaking process concerns standards for educating future teachers. Among other topics, the process is slated to address:
• "The requirements for institutional and program report cards on the quality of teacher preparation.”
• "The requirements for state report cards on the quality of teacher preparation.”
• "The standards to ensure reliability, validity, and accuracy of the data submitted in report cards on the quality of teacher preparation.”
• "The criteria used by states to assess the performance of teacher preparation programs at higher education institutions in the State, the identification of low-performing programs … and the consequences of a State's termination of eligibility of a program.”
The rulemaking process doesn't use the phrase "voluntary national performance assessment,” but it does clearly address the question of how teacher education is regulated and overseen, which we think is close enough for our purposes. What keeps this from a Promise Kept is that the rulemaking effort is ongoing. Several electronic sessions were held earlier this year.
For this reason, we are keeping the rating at In the Works, and expect to do so for the duration of Obama's first term.
Federal Register, "Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, Negotiator Nominations and Schedule of Committee Meetings—Teacher Preparation and TEACH Grant Programs," Oct. 26, 2011
Education Department, "Negotiated Rulemaking for Higher Education 2011 -- Team I, Teacher Preparation Issues," accessed Nov. 16, 2012
Voluntary assessment for teachers is under discussion, but no tangible progress yet
During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said that his administration would "create a voluntary national performance assessment so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively."
In searches using Google, Whitehouse.gov and Nexis, we were unable to find any evidence that the administration has acted publicly to advance this promise, although at least one education advocate, Lewis Cohen, executive director of the Coalition of Essential Schools, told PolitiFact that the proposal is "in the discussion stage."
Whenever the "discussion stage" morphs into a tangible advance, we'll move this promise to In the Works. But as long as the discussion remains behind the scenes, we'll call it Stalled.
Internet and Nexis searches that produced no results
Interview with Lewis Cohen, executive director of the Coalition of Essential Schools, Jan. 12, 2010