Department of Education Teacher Preparation Regulations: A First Look
The Department of Education has released proposed regulations on rating teacher preparation programs across the country, which could have a negative impact on music education programs, especially with future teachers hoping to work with underserved students. They expand the annual reporting that institutions are required to participate in to receive federal funding. The new regulations will amend the “Higher Education Act” and the associated “Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program” that provided $119.9 million in funding for future teachers last year to teach in underserved schools. Based on these ratings “low performing programs” would be ineligible to receive TEACH Grants for their students.
Read on for a summary of the proposed revisions. For more information, including how to submit comments by the Feb. 2nd deadline, visit the Federal Register’s page on Teacher Preparation Regulations.
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How could this affect music teacher preparation?
- All teacher programs are to be rated individually, this means that music teacher preparation programs will be rated separately from other programs at institutions.
- Currently institutions report all aggregated education student data, not individual programs. Under the new guidelines programs must be individually reported in October instead of the April on an annual basis. The burden of changing reporting practices falls to the higher education institution: “the Department estimates that the one-time total burden for IHEs to adjust recordkeeping systems would be 6,088 hours (1,522 IHEs multiplied by 4 burden hours per IHE).” They offer no support or alternatives.
- Employment data and post-education data is to be carried out by the States and is also an unfunded mandate.
- The findings of each rating must be posted “prominently and promptly” on the institution and program’s website as well as promotional materials provided to potential students.
- States must pull together all information on individual programs and “make it widely available to the general public” along with their state report card.
- Some of the most critical requirements are left to the discretion of the Department of Education until 2019, “the Department would identify specific content requirements, criteria, and data that a State would use, beginning in April 2019 and annually thereafter, to assess the performance of each teacher preparation program in addition to the reporting elements expressly identified in section 205(b) of the HEA.”
- Teacher Preparation programs that produce fewer than 25 new teachers per year may be reported at the State’s discretion, though they may have their data combined with other below threshold programs and/or have results averaged out across multiple years.
- States will have a wide range of options for evaluating what student growth means that will likely vary in terms of quality, the scores of programs will be a composite of these different approaches and will vary depending on the destination states for students. “For student learning outcomes, data would be calculated by the State using a student growth measure, a teacher evaluation measure, or both.”
- The Department of Education has made it clear that programs considered substandard in student outcomes (often test score related) are squarely under their purview. “States may identify the performance level for a teacher preparation program as effective or higher quality only if the program has satisfactory or higher student learning outcomes.”
- TEACH Grants offer up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing undergraduate or Masters level coursework in a “high need field” to become a teacher. They must meet financial need requirements, maintain a GPA of 3.25 or score above the 75th percentile on a college admissions test, and must teach at least 4 of the 8 years following their degrees in a TEACH-Grant-eligible school.
- “High need fields” are defined as “bilingual education and English language acquisition, foreign language, mathematics, reading specialist, science, and special education” as well as those states specifically listed in their annual Teacher Shortage Areas lists.
- Teacher Shortage Areas list music and the arts regularly in many states, which allows music teachers in those states to be eligible for the TEACH Grant program
How will programs be measured?
Teacher training programs will be divided into four categories: “low-performing,” “at-risk,” “effective,” and “exceptional”. This four-point rating system will render those in the “low-performing” or “at-risk” categories ineligible for TEACH Grant funding. States would report annually on the performance of each teacher preparation program, including alternative certification programs, based on indicators that include at least:
- Employment outcomes– New teacher placement and three-year retention rates, including in high-need schools (as defined by the Department of Education).
- Teacher and employer feedback: Surveys on the effectiveness of preparation.
- Student learning outcomes– Effectiveness of new teachers as demonstrated through measures of student growth, performance on state or local teacher evaluation measures that include data on student growth, or both, during their first three teaching years. The use of existing state evaluation systems are encouraged, meaning measures like the statistically inaccurate VAM scores may be adopted by states and factor into the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs.
- Assurance of specialized accreditation, or evidence that a program produces candidates with content and pedagogical knowledge and quality clinical preparation, who have met rigorous entry and exit requirements.
Shannon Kelly, Director of Advocacy, and Alexandra Eaton, Legislative Policy Advisor, December 16, 2014. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)