Dear Commons Community,
Below is a request from Professor William Buxton (SUNY Cortland and the AFT) calling on faculty to raise their voices against the new USDOE regulations of teacher preparation progams. As the request makes clear, this is another example of the testing fanaticism that has engulfed much of K-12 education and is now working its way into higher education. Teacher preparation now, other programs later.
There are new proposed regulations out from the Department of Education. They focus on teacher preparation, and they’re not good. The Education Department wants to use unreliable, out-of-context data like K-12 standardized test scores and employment numbers to punish teacher preparation programs. We have until Feb. 2 to comment before the department goes into the process of writing the final regulations. Who better to tell them what we need than educators like you?
Tell the Department of Education that testing and other invalid measures will not work to determine the success of teacher preparation programs.
The way the department wants to judge programs is complicated, so here’s an example. Sasha goes to UCLA to become a teacher. After graduation, Sasha gets a job as an eighth-grade English teacher in East Los Angeles. To judge whether UCLA’s program was good, California will use the standardized test scores from Sasha’s students. If the students’ scores aren’t high enough, UCLA will get a bad grade.
Crazy, right? And it gets worse. Because of the use of employment numbers, when a recession hits and Sasha is laid off due to budget cuts, UCLA can get another bad grade.
And those bad grades come with punishments. Schools with poor ratings can lose federal resources, like student grants and aid. Using these measures also means that preparation programs whose graduates teach in high-need schools are more likely to receive those punishments, because of lower test scores and higher teacher turnover in those schools. As a result, preparation programs could be discouraged from preparing students to take on tough assignments, and may even steer students away from jobs in high-need schools. The last thing we need is a system that makes it HARDER to recruit teachers for our highest-need students!
Tell the Department of Education that this test-and-punish style of accountability is not a route to improvement, just as it has not improved K-12 education.
What is wrong with the proposed regulations? K-12 test scores were not designed to rate teacher prep programs. Cash-strapped states will have to build new data systems. And these regulations don’t set a level playing field for all programs. Alternative preparation programs, for example, where teachers learn on the job, are rated differently, giving them an advantage.
The AFT supports a rigorous, professional preparation process for aspiring teachers, as laid out in our Raising the Bar report. We believe that our system for preparing and licensing teachers should ensure that every teacher is fully trained and ready on their first day in the classroom.
We want systemic improvement, and we want the information that will help us to get there, including multiple measures of student performance and data on who enters the teaching profession and who stays. But taking this data out of context, and then attaching high-stakes consequences, isn’t the answer.
Teaching and learning in the K-12 system will improve when we invest in the teaching profession—investing in high-quality teacher preparation and supporting teachers before and while they are in the classroom.
William Buxton, Associate Professor, State University of New York Cortland