U.S. House Hearing Scrutinizes Teacher Preparation

On February 27, the U.S. House subcommittee on elementary and secondary education and the subcommittee on higher education held a hearing titled “Exploring Efforts to Strengthen the Teaching Profession.”

Witnesses included Marcy Singer-Gabella, professor of the Practice of Education at Vanderbilt University (TN), along with two officials from state departments of education and the director of an alternative-route program.

The chairs and ranking members of each subcommittee began the hearing with opening statements that were largely critical of teacher preparation. Introductory speakers generalized that teachers colleges are underperforming and that alternative-route programs are just as effective as traditional programs. The opening speakers also mentioned the possibility of eliminating the highly qualified teacher definition, the potential impact programs like those promoted in the GREAT Act could have on innovation in teacher preparation, and several quotes from the National Council on Teacher Quality’s review of programs.  

The conversation became more constructive and more positive during the witness testimony and during the subsequent question and answer session between the members of the subcommittees and the witnesses. Some of the witnesses noted the importance of partnerships between teacher preparation programs and local schools. The two state officials mentioned they were working collaboratively with their teacher preparation programs to revise state program approval standards that would better capture indicators of program quality. All of the panelists also spoke to the importance of data and the current status of state data systems.

Members of both subcommittees were particularly interested in the reporting required by Title II of the Higher Education Act. Witnesses agreed that some of the information currently collected by the federal government is not particularly meaningful or helpful for program improvement. They also mentioned that states collect quite a bit of data from institutions that are not passed on to the federal government. At the request of the chair of the elementary and secondary subcommittee, each of the panelists will submit to the record recommendations on which items should be eliminated from the Title II report cards.

Several members of Congress also voiced broader concerns about the state of teaching. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) asked if teaching would ever attract enough of the “best and the brightest” students if compensation is not comparable to what these individuals could earn in other jobs. Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) echoed this point, specifically in relation to shortages in science, technology, engineering, and math. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) raised questions about attracting individuals into the teaching workforce in the absence of career ladders and professional respect. Representative Phil Roe (R-TN) told the panelists and the audience that he and the other members of both subcommittees applaud and appreciate the work of educators.

Remarks during the hearing also touched on professional accreditation, performance assessments, teacher turnover, and the failed negotiated rule making the Department of Education pursued for teacher preparation in 2012.

Click here to read the recommendations AACTE submitted in advance of the hearing.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Sarah Pinsky

Manager for State and Federal Policy, AACTE