U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan
Photo credit: Ralph Alswang (CC-By-ND 2.0)
arne-duncan.jpg
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan
Photo credit: Ralph Alswang (CC-By-ND 2.0)

Sharon Robinson, President/CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education expressed disappointment in President Obama’s use of unilateral executive authority to implement federal priorities for teacher preparation. The process of developing new teacher-preparation programs began in 2011 when Race to the Top dollars were granted to the Center for American Progress to develop a proposal for teacher-education reform. Several states piloted aspects of the proposal in 2012.

Critics believe that the federally aligned Common Core Standards represent federal overreach and attempts of the federal government to control the PK-12 educational system. Now it appears that the federal government also wants to control college preparation programs and criteria for teacher licensure.

The AACTE website reveals that Ms. Robinson would prefer that the U. S. Department of Education work with Congress when reshaping issues reauthorized by the Higher Education Act. Problems identified by AACTE include: requiring every state to rate its preparation programs, to use metrics that are problematic, and to heavily employ PK-12 value-added data based on the progress of a teacher’s students. The data will be used to evaluate the teacher and to rate college-preparation programs. Eligibility for federal financial aid will be tied to the rating of the preparation program. Also, states are not provided resources to implement these new initiatives.

Robinson expresses frustration with the lack of respect the federal government has given the TEACH grant program. Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant Program is also a federal program created in 2007 to provide up to $4,000 per year in grants to students who would teach full-time in a high-need subject area for at least four years. To qualify, the student must have at least a 3.25 on a 4.0 scale grade-point average.  States used these federal guidelines and funds to improve teacher-preparation programs.

Reforms were implemented quickly by the states under the TEACH grant program. Colleges developed high-quality teacher-preparation programs. States addressed the need to attract highly skilled teachers. The TEACH grants were intended to recruit high performers and, according to AACTE, they have done just that. These TEACH grant requirements are duplicated in Obama’s plan for teacher education reform.

AACTE has been collecting data which shows that “tens of thousands of teacher candidates are using these grants to support their preparation, and graduates are already teaching in high-need schools and high-need subject areas.” Therefore, the states are perfectly capable of developing programs that motivate and attract future teachers to fill the job openings in their state.

In fact, federal dollars are once again being wasted to develop layers of repetitive federal programs designed to accomplish something the states began addressing several years ago.  AACTE website expresses doubt that the new federal programs will be any better than those put forward in 2012.

State legislators need to reassert state autonomy over education and to remind the federal government that its appropriate role in education is to keep out!

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