Your Voices Were (At Least) Heard: Federal Plans for College of Education Value-Added

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A couple of weeks ago I published a post titled “Your Voice Also Needs to Be Heard.” In this post I put out an all-call to solicit responses to an open request for feedback regarding the US Department of Education’s proposal to require teacher training programs (i.e., colleges of education) to track and be accountable for how their teacher graduates’ students are performing on standardized tests, once their teachers teach in the field for x years. That is, teacher-level value-added that reflects all the way back to a college of education’s purported quality.

In an article written by Stephen Sawchuk and published this past week in Education Week, you can read more about some of your and many others’ responses (i.e., more than 2,300 separate public comments) in an article titled “U.S. Teacher-Prep Rules Face Heavy Criticism in Public Comments.”

As written into the first paragraph, the feedback was “overwhelmingly critical,” and Sawchuk charged this was the case given the “coordinated opposition from higher education officials and assorted policy groups.” Not that many of particularly the former group of folks have valid arguments to make on the topic, given they are the ones at the center of the proposed reforms and understand the realities surrounding such reforms much better than the policymakers in charge…

Among the policy groups, Sawchuk accordingly positions groups like the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), that he defined as “a left-leaning think tank at the University of Colorado at Boulder that is partly funded by teachers’ unions and generally opposes market-based education policies” — against, for example — the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which in reality is a neoconservative education policy think tank, but in Sawchuk’s “reporting of the facts” he defines as just “generally back[ing] stronger accountability mechanisms in education.” Why such (biased) reporting, Sawchuk?

Regardless, the proposed rules at issue here were “issued under the Higher Education Act [and]…released by the U.S. Department of Education in November, some two years after negotiations with representatives from various types of colleges broke down over the regulations’ shape and scope. Among other provisions, the rules would require states to use measures such as surveys of school districts, teacher-employment data, and student-achievement results to classify each preparation program in one of four categories…The lowest-rated would be barred from offering federal grants of up to $4,000 a year to help pay for teacher education under the teach program.”

Although Sawchuk does not disaggregate the data, I would venture to say that the main if not only issues with which folks are actually talking issue is the latter piece – the use of student-achievement results to classify each preparation program in one of four categories as per their “value-added.” Sawchuk did, however, report on five major themes common across responses about how the new rules would:

  • Prioritize student test scores, potentially leading to deleterious effects on teacher-preparation coursework;
  • Apply punitive sanctions to programs rather than support them;
  • Expand federal meddling in state affairs;
  • Prescribe flawed measures that would yield biased results; and
  • Cost far more to implement than the $42 million the Education Department estimated.

You can see individual’s responses also highlighted within the article, again linked to here.

“Only a handful of commenters were outright supportive of the rules.” Yet, “[w]hether the [US] Education Department will be swayed by the volume of negative comments to rewrite or withdraw the rules remains an open question.” What do you think they will do?

As per Michael J. Petrilli, a former staffer under George W. Bush’s administration, the US Department of Education “must give the public a chance to provide input, and has to explain if it has changed its regulations as a result of the process. But it doesn’t have to change a word.” I will try to stay positive, but I guess we shall wait and see…

Petrilli also cautioned that “critics’ attempts to undermine the rules could backfire. ‘If opponents want to be constructive, they need to suggest ways to improve the regulation, not just argue for its elimination.” For the record, I am MORE THAN HAPPY to help offer better and much more reasonable and valid solutions!!

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