Let’s lead (with guidance)

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance related to Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new law that replaces No Child Left Behind. Deans for Impact was pleased to offer a statement in support of this guidance, which you can read here.

As we previously highlighted in our policy brief From Chaos to Coherence, ESSA includes legislative language that allows states to create a new process for approving and authorizing educator-preparation programs. the basic gist is simple: let’s hold programs accountable for the impact of the teacher-candidates they prepare, and stop imposing upon them regulatory or other compliance burdens that have no evidence of impact. that states may use up to 4.85 percent of their total title ii funding in order to do this should act as a powerful incentive to states that want to be seen as leaders on this issue.

To make this happen, states need to think creatively – and act boldly. as researchers such as Paul von Hippel and Cory Coedel have pointed out, at present it is very hard to detect meaningful variance in performance across programs. rather than use that as an excuse for inaction, however, states should develop authorizing processes that will over time generate the data necessary to develop a “science of teacher prep.”

We know that there are leaders of programs who are willing to venture forth into outcomes-based accountability despite the murky evidence base. We know that because many of them are members of deans for impact. And interest in our effort continues to grow.

Making this shift will result in friction. Academics such as Kenneth Zeichner have acknowledged the need to dramatically improve teacher preparation in this country while simultaneously decrying policies designed to foster innovation and improvement. Others will likely join this chorus.

But policymakers have grown weary of this stale and reactionary posture, and voices from the field have been marginalized as a result. As I’ve often commented, the only thing Democrats and Republicans in Congress seem to agree on is that our educator-preparation system is, well, abysmal.

We need to change this narrative, both in perception and in reality. Rather than pointing to imaginary bogeymen lurking behind every new teacher-prep policy provision, however, leaders in educator preparation should embrace this moment as an opportunity to lead. After all, if education is truly a professional field, the programs responsible for preparing its practitioners must demonstrate their impact.

So let’s embrace policies that will help us do just that – and let’s get to work.



Benjamin Riley

Founder and Executive Director

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