The U.S. Department of Education (USED) this week issued a long-awaited set of federal regulations governing teacher-preparation programs, the programs that prepare new K-12 teachers. The USED labelled the effort part of a broader push to improve teacher quality and readiness.
According to the Washington Post, the rules “require each state to issue annual ratings for teacher-prep programs” in an effort to provide “a snapshot of how novice educators perform after graduation, offering prospective teachers and school district recruiters a more accurate picture of which programs are successful at producing strong educators and which are not.” The new requirements apply to both traditional programs based at colleges and universities and alternative-certification routes, such as Teach for America.
Education Week reports the ranking system — in which teacher-preparation programs are rated either effective, at-risk, or low-performing — aims to hold those programs more accountable for how their graduates perform as teachers, based in part upon their students’ academic success. However, in a significant change from the original version proposed in 2014, the new regulations would allow states to use other measures beyond growth in student test scores in evaluating a program’s effectiveness.
Under the new regulations, states must consider feedback from graduates and employers on how effective they perceive a program’s training to be. An effective program, according to the rules, is one that gives plenty of on-the-job training and meets “rigorous exit requirements.” States must also provide additional support to programs rated as low-performing.
It is hoped the ratings will prod teacher training programs — long criticized by some as “cash cows” for universities that often produce ill-prepared candidates — to improve.” Under the new rules, the USED could eventually cut off persistently low-performing programs’ access to federal TEACH grants that help students pay for teacher training.