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Town Hall Meeting Engages AACTE Members, Leaders on Hot Issues

Members of the AACTE Executive Committee held a Town Hall Meeting February 24 at the AACTE 68th Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, providing updates to the membership on key work of the Association and answering questions submitted by the audience on various programmatic and professional issues.

AACTE President/CEO Sharon P. Robinson opened the session with her annual “state of the Association” report. She announced that membership numbers are up to 823 institutional and 32 affiliate members and that several exciting new initiatives are under way—replacing or updating others to be more responsive to member needs. The long-operating Professional Education Data System (PEDS), for example, is now suspended in favor of a new data initiative that will aggregate and report on existing data sets, create benchmarking potential for programs, and more.

The “town hall” portion of the meeting followed, as Robinson was joined on stage by members of the Association’s Executive Committee then in office: Chair Mark Ginsberg (George Mason University, VA), Chair-Elect Jane Bray (Old Dominion University, VA), Secretary Renée Middleton (Ohio University), and at-large member Tim Wall (Northwest Missouri State University). These leaders discussed recent and upcoming focus areas for AACTE staff and members and responded to member-submitted questions, particularly around new accreditation and policy issues.

Accreditation and Evidence

Middleton gave an update from the Board subcommittee working with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), summarizing the findings of the recent member survey on accreditation. She reported that the subcommittee has been gratified to find CAEP leaders eager to listen and collaborate around member feedback, and she commended Randy Hitz for serving as AACTE’s representative to the CAEP board.

In response to a member question about the evidence required by CAEP, Wall acknowledged the evidence base is tricky to define but that building more diverse voices—such as students and more representatives from minority-serving institutions—into the CAEP governance structure could help the agency set policies in fuller consideration of their potential impact. Wall expressed concern that the requirements in CAEP Standard 3.2 are not proven to be connected to quality but will keep many students, especially people of color, from entering the field.

Robinson noted that the professional community is obliged to remain engaged in refining accreditation requirements, as the consensus process needed for setting standards never ends. She said the standards related to program quality must not intrude on institutional mission.

Responding to a member question about the Association’s position relative to value-added measures (VAM) for evaluating teachers and programs, Robinson said that AACTE members clearly want to know the impact of their work when graduates move into practice. “However,” she said, “we do not think [VAM] is a measure that should determine whether our neck is on the chopping block or be the full definition of the quality of what we do.” She cited the new data initiative as an important effort to identify other ways to document impact through multiple measures.

Bray recalled the important message heard a day earlier from Pedro Noguera that schools should help low-performing teachers to improve rather than simply firing them, as some VAM-based evaluation models attempt to do.

Policy and Advocacy

In response to a question about how to expand the voices in educator preparation as called for by Noguera, Bray noted the critical role of AACTE’s state chapters in leading collaborative reform. Chapters are more powerful than ever, she said, and should be staging the conversations in each state.

Robinson agreed that the current moment is prime for engaging in partnerships at the state level for the implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act. “Start to engage your state department officials, and your local superintendents and boards, in understanding that you intend to contribute to the planning and the implementing of strategies designed to solve problems of access and quality of educational services at home,” she said. “It’s a rich moment, and we intend to support our state chapters with as much information as we can glean in the process of implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act. It’s not too soon to get started.”

Ginsberg reminded the audience that the top advocacy concern at last year’s conference was Title II of the Higher Education Act—or more specifically, the proposed federal regulations for teacher preparation programs, the fate of which remains unresolved. Robinson noted the strong and remarkably unified message that was sent to the U.S. Department of Education in last year’s call for comments on the proposal. Bray agreed that the excitement of having the profession come together with a unified voice was especially rewarding.

Another member question asked whether overseas hiring might be an effective solution to the teacher shortages currently plaguing many areas of the country. Bray said teacher educators need to work with their state departments of education to advocate for appropriate adjustments to licensure requirements. Robinson agreed, noting that although a shortage warrants a closer look at all sources of teachers, rules need to be applied fairly to all pathways. She said international hires could be part of the solution but we also should double down on boosting our supply pipeline at home, tapping local resources.

Ginsberg concluded the meeting with the reminder that these conversations must not “stay in Vegas” but rather continue at members’ home institutions.

To view a recording of the session, visit the AACTE Learning Center.

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