AACTE Issues Statement on GAO Report on Department of Education’s Role in Teacher Preparation Program Accountability

Last week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report examining the roles of both the states and the U.S. Department of Education in identifying low-performing teacher preparation programs as well as in information sharing amongst stakeholders. AACTE and some of its members participated in this study, which took over a year for GAO to complete. In response to the report, AACTE issued the following statement, which received press coverage by Politico’s subscription service. Please send questions to dkoolbeck@aacte.org.

(July 24, 2015, Washington, DC) — AACTE and its over 820 member institutions stand firmly behind the reforms and innovations that are currently under way in teacher preparation programs across this nation, and we welcome the opportunity to be held accountable for our work. We support identifying low-performing programs, giving them time and resources to improve, and closing those programs that do not accomplish the necessary reforms. Unfortunately, states and the U.S. Department of Education have faced challenges in complying with the law requiring them to identify such programs, according to a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The report, Teacher Preparation Programs: Education Should Ensure States Identify Low-Performing Programs and Improve Information-Sharing(GAO-15-598), reveals not only that some states are failing in their statutory requirement to identify low-performing teacher preparation programs but also that the Department has failed in its statutory responsibility to enforce the law. In addition, the report finds that the Department is failing to share insights or to offer guidance or support to states and stakeholders on how to meet the requirements of the law, and it is not encouraging continuous improvement of teacher preparation programs. The GAO notes a lack of transparency by the Department on differences in teacher preparation program data and definitions from state to state, as well as the fact that alternative-route programs are held to different and lower standards. The report also recommends a review of the usefulness of the data being collected under Title II of the Higher Education Act.

In closing, the GAO makes four recommendations to address the challenges revealed in the report. The Department responded in agreement with three of the recommended actions, but for the fourth, it cited the proposed regulations for teacher preparation programs as its remedy for ensuring that states identify low-performing programs. (See a summary of AACTE’s concerns with the proposed regulations here and AACTE’s detailed submission to the Federal Register here. AACTE was not alone in expressing concerns on the proposed regulations; of the 4,580 responses to the proposal, fewer than 270 were supportive.) Not only would these regulations redirect time, energy, and resources to creating the system and complying with the burdensome requirements, but they might not even succeed in identifying at-risk and low-performing teacher preparation programs.

AACTE looks forward to the opportunity to address some of the challenges highlighted in the GAO report through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. AACTE supports the work of Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) on the Educator Preparation Reform Act (EPRA), which will be introduced again this Congress in the coming months. The bill makes improvements to the Teacher Quality Partnership Program, the only federal investment in reforming teacher preparation. In addition, EPRA would streamline Title II data collection to focus on the data that can drive reform and improvement. The bill also would ensure that states hold teacher preparation programs accountable by making not only funds in the Higher Education Act contingent on compliance, but funds from Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

AACTE will continue to work with Congress, the Department of Education, and the states to ensure that all preparation programs graduate profession-ready teachers.


Deborah Koolbeck

Senior Director of Government Relations, AACTE