Ending the era of guesswork in educator preparation

Deans for Impact believes that policy should provide actionable data – along with the support and tools for program improvement – to help those at the front lines of the education system succeed. The member deans of our organization want to ensure their graduates are effective in the classroom from day one – but they lack information on whether teachers they’ve prepared are succeeding or struggling.

In late 2014, the Department of Education released proposed regulations aimed at addressing this problem. Broadly speaking, these regulations, issued under Title II of the Higher Education Act, required states to develop more robust reporting systems on the performance of ed-prep programs as measured by a variety of outcome measures. (For additional detail on the regulations as initially proposed see here.)

Upon their release, the proposed regulations ran into fierce resistance from a number of higher-education organizations. Uniquely, however, Deans for Impact has advocated in support of the proposed regulations since their inception. Indeed, we made our public debut in conjunction with their release.

And it’s been worth the wait. Today, the Department of Education is issuing the educator-preparation regulations in final form. They include a number of changes based on feedback from the field – a good example, in our view, of responsive policymaking. These changes include:

  • Minimum of three (rather than four) categories for rating educator-preparation programs: The final regulations require states to rate programs using at least three categories: effective, at-risk, and low-performing. The proposed regulations had included a fourth category, “exceptional,” but that is no longer required.
  • Student outcomes need not be “significant” in state ratings systems: The proposed regulations required states to make their rating systems be based on student-learning outcomes and employment outcomes “in significant part.” The final regulations delete the “in significant part” requirement.
  • Revised definition of student-learning outcomes: The final regulations provide states with significantly more flexibility in defining student-learning outcomes, particularly through use of a “state-determined measure.”
  • No “rigorous entry” requirement: States will not be required to use educator-preparation-program candidate entry requirements as one of the indicators of program effectiveness.
  • New definition of “distance programs”: The final regulations define this as a “teacher preparation program in which 50 percent or more of the program’s required coursework is offered through distance education.” The online-education issue was the source of major consternation in the initial regulations.
  • No STEM carve-out: The proposed regulations allowed states to exempt STEM-focused educator-preparation programs from losing TEACH Grant eligibility if they were found to be low performing over time. The final regulations eliminate this exemption.
  • States are not required to report placement rates of alt-route programs: Commenters had noted that many alt-route program participants are employed as teachers of record, resulting in a misleading 100 percent placement rate.
  • Modified survey requirements: The final regulations require states to survey “all novice teachers in their first year of teaching in the State.” The proposed regulations had required all “program completers” to be surveyed.

We believe the final release of these regulations represents an important step in the transformation of our educator-preparation system. The regulations have appropriately addressed issues raised during the public comment period while preserving the main thrust toward providing educator preparation programs with meaningful information about their graduates. This theme is highlighted in one of the Department of Education’s responses to public comment:

No information available to those operating teacher preparation programs…can, on its own, ensure the programs’ continuous improvement. However, those operating teacher preparation programs can use data on a program’s student learning outcomes–along with data from employment outcomes, survey outcomes, and characteristics of the program–to identify key areas for improvement and focus their efforts.

The release of these regulations is a chance to make educator preparation more meaningful and rigorous – leading to better-prepared teachers and better outcomes for children. We look forward to working with our member deans, and leaders throughout the field of educator preparation, to ensure we seize this important moment.

Benjamin Riley

Founder and Executive Director

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