The Federal Education Department Got Teacher Prep Wrong

IB ImageWe have until February 2 to comment before the DOE goes into the process of writing the final regulations. Who better to tell them what we need than AFT’s member educators? We need to speak out with a united voice to keep standardized testing and other invalid measures from determining the success of teacher preparation programs.
 


Click here to comment on the DOE’s proposed regulations online.

 

The way the department wants to judge programs is complicated, so here’s an example: 
 
Sasha goes to Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) to become a teacher. After graduation, Sasha gets a job as an eighth-grade English teacher in Windham. To judge whether ECSU’s program was good, Connecticut will use the standardized test scores from Sasha’s students. If the students’ scores aren’t high enough, ECSU will get a bad grade.

 
Crazy, right? And it gets worse. Because of the use of employment numbers, if another recession hits and Sasha is laid off due to budget cuts, ECSU could get another bad grade.


 
And those bad grades come with punishments. Schools with poor ratings can lose federal resources, like student grants and aid. 


 
Using these measures also means that preparation programs whose graduates teach in high-need schools are more likely to receive those punishments, because of lower test scores and higher teacher turnover in those schools. As a result, preparation programs could be discouraged from preparing students to take on tough assignments, and may even steer students away from jobs in high-need schools. 
 
The last thing we need is a system that makes it HARDER to recruit teachers for our highest-need students.

 
Click here for an AFT white paper comparing effective international teacher recruitment and retention efforts.
 

What is wrong with the proposed regulations? K-12 test scores were not designed to rate teacher prep programs. Cash-strapped states will have to build new data systems. And these regulations don’t set a level playing field for all programs. Alternative preparation programs, for example, where teachers learn on the job, are rated differently, giving them an advantage. 

The AFT supports a rigorous, professional preparation process for aspiring teachers, as laid out in our report, “Raising the Bar.” We believe that our system for preparing and licensing teachers should ensure that every teacher is fully trained and ready on their first day in the classroom. 

 
Click here for the report, “Raising the Bar,” completed by AFT’s Teacher Preparation Task Force.
 

We want systemic improvement, and we want the information that will help us to get there, including multiple measures of student performance and data on who enters the teaching profession and who stays.
 
But taking this data out of context, and then attaching high-stakes consequences, isn’t the answer.

Teaching and learning in the K-12 system will improve when we invest in the teaching profession -- investing in high-quality teacher preparation and supporting teachers before and while they are in the classroom.
 
William Buxton

Associate Professor, State University of New York (SUNY) - Cortland
Member, AFT Teacher Preparation Task Force