A Department of Education’s 2016 regulation concerning teacher preparation and funding of it, is not sitting well with NEA teacher union president Lily Eskelsen. Paul Stephan has the story in the Regulatory Review.
A little-discussed, 2016 U.S. Department of Education regulation, “Teacher Preparation Issues,” is quietly changing what colleges and other institutions that train teachers need to report to the federal government and the public. In addition, this newly required information will now determine whether teacher preparation programs are eligible for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) federal grant program.
One of the reasons for creating the rule, according to the Education Department, is that research from some states has demonstrated that learning outcomes vary based on the programs that teachers attend; for this reason, the agency included student learning outcomes as one of the eight indicators that states must use to evaluate program effectiveness. But it does not specify how student learning outcomes must be measured or how much weight they must be given.
Moreover, using learning outcomes to evaluate teachers and, by extension, the programs that train them, is controversial. National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García, head of the country’s largest teacher’s union, criticizes such an approach. Garcia argues that using “students’ test scores to evaluate educators takes us back to the No Child Left Behind days,” referring to the legislation’s sanctions on schools that failed to meet student-learning goals, as measured by standardized tests. According to Garcia, focusing on test scores ignores class sizes, school resources, and other factors that vary by school but which are beyond a teacher’s control.
On the other hand, writers from Education Week reported that Louisiana and Arizona have collected information similar to that which is required by the Education Department’s new rule that showed improvements in student learning.
The controversy over using student-learning goals is not new. In the past, the Education Department has attempted to use student standardized test scores to evaluate teacher preparation programs, but it backed down after sharp criticism. Disagreements about test scores as a measure of school quality were also central when the No Child Left Behind Act was proposed 15 years ago.
The Education Department largely avoided the issue of how to measure learning outcomes in its new rule. The preamble to the final rule notes that states retain flexibility in measuring student learning outcomes and have the option of establishing additional criteria for evaluating preparation programs.