There's no evidence that new teacher preparation regulations released Nov. 25 by the U.S. Department of Education will lead to improvement and plenty of reason to believe they will cause harm, AFT President Randi Weingarten says.
"With these proposed regulations, the administration is moving to rate teacher preparation programs based partly on the test scores of the K-12 students of the graduates of the programs in question," she says. "By replicating the K-12 test-and-punish model—which was spawned by No Child Left Behind and has been the subject of increasing criticism—the administration is simply checking a box instead of thoughtfully using regulations to help craft a sustainable solution that raises the bar for the teaching profession.
"It is our strong hope that the administration will be persuaded to move away from the excessive use of high-stakes testing and its consequences. Teacher preparation programs that send graduates to teach in high-need schools, where research shows the test scores are likely to be lower and the teacher turnover higher, will receive lower ratings and could lose funding.
"Look at it this way: Would you rate the dental school programs that serve low-income communities, where patients come in with a high number of cavities, unsatisfactory? No. Would you give those programs the support needed to best serve these communities? Of course.
"The teaching profession needs to become more aligned with medical and legal models and less attached to the factory model. But for teacher preparation programs, due to the focus on K-12 test scores, the very programs preparing diverse teachers for our increasingly diverse classrooms will be penalized. This will cause programs to reconsider placing their graduates in schools that serve our most vulnerable students. And aspiring teachers who come from disadvantaged backgrounds will find their opportunities closed down as accountability pressures rise without increased support.
"Paradoxically, at the same time these regulations are being promulgated, the department is going in the opposite direction with for-profit colleges, backing off of a strong gainful employment regulation that would have ensured students were being prepared for good jobs while warding off fraud and abuse at for-profits.
"Every child deserves well-prepared teachers. There is no quick fix when it comes to professionalizing teaching. Just look at countries that outperform us in education, like Finland and Singapore. They have a high bar of entry into the profession, and they provide the supports needed so every teacher is ready to teach on day one. In our "Raising the Bar" report, we called for a universal and rigorous bar for entry into the profession with more comprehensive course work, real-world clinical experience and demonstration of teaching competency. It's gratifying to see more organizations supporting our call. A strong teaching profession, not harmful regulations, is the sustainable solution we need to ensure every classroom has a well-prepared teacher."
[AFT press release]