ED proposes teacher prep reforms

A new federal proposal will help ensure rigor in teacher preparation programs.

To ensure that teachers are ready to enter the classroom, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is proposing a series of initiatives to reward the best teacher preparation programs, improve the quality at schools of education, and remove burdensome regulations.

These reforms are part of the Obama administration’s effort to support educators and make government programs work better for teachers and students.

“America’s teachers and America’s children deserve world-class preparation programs that prepare teachers for today’s classrooms and students for today’s information age,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in announcing ED’s proposed reforms.

The plan has three core elements:

  • ED is proposing to reduce the reporting burden on schools of education and states. It wants states to identify the best teacher preparation programs and encourage others to improve by linking student test scores back to teachers and their schools of education. Schools of education and states are currently required to report 440 different measures annually. ED recommends far fewer input measures and at least three significant outcome measures that are indicators of quality.
  • ED has proposed a $185 million Presidential Teaching Fellows program to support rigorous state-level policies and provide scholarships for future leaders to attend top programs. These future educators would be prepared to teach high-need subjects or fields, and upon graduation, teach for at least three years in high-need schools.
  • The plan will provide more support for institutions that prepare high-quality teachers from diverse backgrounds. ED is developing Hawkins Centers for Excellence, which will help prepare the next generation of effective minority teachers. President Obama’s budget proposes $40 million in first-time funding for this already authorized program to support and diversify the teaching workforce.

The reform plan has broad support across the education community, including the National Education Association, Teach For America, and education school leaders.

“Too many future teachers graduate from prep programs unprepared for success in the classroom,” said Duncan. “We have to give teachers the support they need to ensure that children get the high quality education they deserve. Our goal is to develop a system that recognizes and rewards good programs, and encourages all of them to improve.”

Education stakeholders said the plan could be a helpful tool to ensure that educators entering the profession from any background or field meet the same rigorous standards.

“There are many teacher preparation programs across the country that prepare quality candidates. Now, we need to develop the systems that will help to evaluate and more broadly support both program and candidate quality,” said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel.

“Identifying and learning from top-performing teacher-preparation programs is one important strategy to further the teaching profession in our country,” said Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach For America. “It is critically important to regularly analyze the effectiveness of our teacher-preparation pathways, and this analysis should include an objective and rigorous examination of the average learning gains of students.”

“The administration’s proposal makes clear that the ability to teach is something to learn, and therefore to be taught. This puts the focus where it should be: beginning teachers’ readiness to practice independently,” said Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the University of Michigan School of Education. “Setting performance requirements for responsible teaching is one of the most important improvements that the U.S. could make to ensure learning by all students. This teacher education plan takes an important stand—it’s the outcomes of teacher preparation that matter most.”

For more information on these efforts, see Our Future, Our Teachers: The Obama Administration’s Plan for Teacher Education Reform and Improvement.

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