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Department of Education to Move Forward With Teacher Preparation Regulations

On Friday at Dunbar High School in Washington, DC, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz announced movement on long-overdue teacher preparation regulations. These regulations are the successor to the spring 2012 negotiated rule making held by the Department of Education, which failed to reach consensus after several tumultuous sessions.

Joined on a panel at Friday’s event by Jim Cibulka (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation), Camilla Benbow (Vanderbilt University, TN), Chris Minnich (Council of Chief State School Officers), Kaya Henderson (District of Columbia Public Schools), Elisa Villanueva Beard (Teach For America), and Secretary Duncan, Muñoz said the regulations are “something that the president has a real sense of urgency about.”

During a press call earlier in the day, Duncan said, “Far too many teachers I talk with feel teacher prep programs simply aren’t preparing them for the realities of the difficulties and hard work they face in the classroom. . . . Programs that are producing teachers where students are less successful—they either need to change, or do something else, or go out of business.”

Duncan ended Friday’s session by lauding this proposal as “a triumph of common sense and a revolution at the same time. If we don’t get this done, shame on us.”

The 2012 rule making on teacher preparation sought to define a “high-quality program” in the TEACH grant statute. The Department’s proposal at that time essentially called for every state to rate its teacher preparation programs and allow only those with the highest rating to be considered high quality, and thus eligible to offer TEACH grants. The state-mandated ratings would be based on (1) surveys of principals who hire the graduates, (2) surveys of graduates of the program, (3) placement and retention rate of graduates, and (4) value-added scores of students taught by the graduates. At the conclusion of the 2012 negotiated rule-making session, AACTE issued a statement citing concerns about that proposal, which were shared by many of the presidential higher education organizations.

Additionally, later in 2012, the Higher Education Task Force on Teacher Preparation (of which AACTE is a member) worked with the offices of Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) to develop a bill to reauthorize Title II of the Higher Education Act and to update the TEACH grants. The resulting Educator Preparation Reform Act was reintroduced in the current Congress in May 2013, representing the professional community’s vision for the federal role in teacher preparation—and standing in contrast to the Department’s proposal.

Very shortly now, the Department’s proposed regulations will be transmitted to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB will have 30 to 90 days to review, analyze, and revise the proposal before issuing a notice of proposed rule making. When the notice is issued, the public will have 30 to 60 days to submit comments. Then the Department will review and analyze the comments and issue a final regulation, which Duncan said should occur before the end of 2014.

AACTE will be actively engaged in conversations with the White House, OMB, the Department of Education, congressional offices, and other national education associations regarding these proposed regulations and their potential impact. Stay tuned for alerts about opportunities for input, comment, and dialogue!

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant