It’s an election year – the full U.S. House of Representatives and one third of the U.S. Senate are up for re-election – which makes for interesting legislative times. Elections are just 4 months out, and we have about 7 legislative weeks left in the 113th Congress.
The primary season has essentially ended, and we’ve seen some shockers – including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) losing his primary election and subsequently resigning his leadership position. As we approach the August recess and fall election season, some important work is under way in both the House and the Senate.
AACTE President/CEO Sharon P. Robinson announced Friday that Mark LaCelle-Peterson, senior vice president of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), will join AACTE’s staff as vice president for policy and programs July 1.
“We are delighted to welcome Mark to AACTE,” Robinson said. “He knows the work of our membership very well, and we are eager to bring his expertise to the Association’s programs.”
LaCelle-Peterson will provide strategic and operational leadership for AACTE’s Policy and Programs Department. The position is a member of the senior management team that is instrumental in developing and executing the overall strategic goals of the Association. Managing a team consisting of staff and consultants, LaCelle-Peterson will provide program and policy leadership and will develop high-level activities to showcase and support the work of the Association.
Updated to reflect new application deadline.
Applications are now available for a new slate of Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants, the federal government’s only investment in reforming teacher preparation in institutions of higher education. Interested applicants will have to act quickly, though—the deadline for letters of intent is June 27, and full applications are due July 15.
Last week, in the Federal Register, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the availability of approximately $35 million in new awards for fiscal year 2014 under the TQP grant program.
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.”
Tomorrow, April 18, is the deadline for public comment on the proposed “highly qualified teacher” (HQT) data collection by the U.S. Department of Education. A detailed letter submitted yesterday by the Coalition for Teaching Quality hails the proposed collection as “an important first step towards meeting the legislative intent” of Congress’ directive to report on the extent to which students in certain high-need categories are taught by teachers who are labeled as “highly qualified,” but who are actually teachers-in-training in alternative routes.
Sam Miller and Marcie Rock (UNC-Greensboro), Gliset Colón (U. at Buffalo), and Mel Sullivan (UNC-Greensboro) with Chris Toppings, staffer for Senator Richard Burr (NC).
Have you considered bringing your graduate students to Washington, DC, for AACTE’s Day on the Hill? Last year, Marcia Rock, associate professor and director of doctoral studies in special education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, did just that with a cadre of graduate students in special education fields. Here is what they had to say about the experience:
Carly Roberts, Doctoral Scholar, University of Wisconsin-Madison:
I was fortunate to be able to attend five meetings on the Hill. I had never realized how accessible our congressman and senators were to constituents. These visits showed me what a powerful force lobbyists and individuals passionate about education can have in Washington. Seeing AACTE’s dedicated staff and all of the university representatives, teachers, and graduate students prepare for their visits with such fervor and passion was inspiring. The gains we’ve made in special education in the past 40 years would not have been possible without such inspired groups and individuals.
I realize now more than ever how important being an advocate for public education and for individuals with exceptionalities is, because I’ve seen firsthand how such advocacy really can have an impact.
On March 25, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) convened the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) to consider changes to Title II of the Higher Education Act (HEA), the portion of the law that addresses teacher preparation. This was the seventh hearing in a series in the Senate on HEA reauthorization.
The predominant theme of the hearing was concern that the Title II data reporting requirements for teacher preparation programs are out of date, onerous, and not useful for program improvement. All five witnesses agreed on this point and offered recommendations for change.
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.
Next week’s AACTE Annual Meeting calls on us to “take charge of change.” Heed the call by signing up now to join your peers this June in Washington, DC, for action in advocacy!
With federal education programs facing budget cuts, potential teacher preparation regulations on the horizon, reauthorization looming for the Higher Education Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and partisan gridlock, now is a crucial time to learn how you can become an effective advocate for the profession. AACTE’s signature advocacy conference, Washington Week, offers three key events to assist in building members’ capacity for advocacy: Day on the Hill, the State Leaders Institute, and the Holmes Scholars Summer Policy Institute.
Last week, President Obama signed an omnibus spending bill funding the government through the end of the fiscal year. This $1.1 trillion plan restores approximately two thirds ($1.6 billion) of the cuts made to the U.S. Department of Education in last year’s sequestration.
Perhaps most important to educator preparation programs, the omnibus maintains funding for Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants, which fund partnerships between institutions of higher education and high-need school districts to create clinical and/or residency programs at the prebaccalaureate or graduate level. This means that the U.S. Department of Education will fund a new round of grants to partnerships seeking to reform teacher preparation programs. Stay tuned for more updates from AACTE on how to apply for this grant funding.
Recent budget cuts at the federal, state, and local levels are affecting the delivery of special education services for students with disabilities, according to a new survey conducted by the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services (NCPSSERS), of which AACTE is a member.
The survey of more than 1,000 special education professionals from all 50 states, which was featured in Education Week, shows that the impact of federal, state, and local budget cuts on special education is most evident in an increase in caseload, class size, and reduced professional development opportunities.
On December 17, the U.S. Department of Education issued a formal Request for Information (RFI) about the development of its new system for rating institutions of higher education, officially known as the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS). (Note: This system aims to rate institutions as a whole, not their various divisions, although educator preparation programs would be a part of their institutions’ rating.)
The Department is urging higher education faculty, students, parents, researchers, data experts, advocacy groups, organizations with expertise in developing rating systems, and others to provide information about what should be included in this rating system. The deadline for submission is January 31.
On December 12, I attended a hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) billed as “Accreditation as Quality Assurance: Meeting the Needs of 21st Century Learning.” This was one of a series of 13 hearings the Committee is holding in preparation for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) chaired the hearing, and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) sat as ranking Republican on the Committee. Other members in attendance were Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), and Christopher Murphy (D-CT). A full recording of the hearing along with written remarks from speakers can be found here. (You will note my presence in the audience!)
State and national policy trends around teaching credentials will be the focus of a major forum at AACTE’s 2014 Annual Meeting, “Maintaining the Value of the Teaching Credential: Challenges and Opportunities.”
The teaching credential is facing challenges at all levels. Several states have devalued the worth of the master’s degree as it relates to advanced certification, and others now award the same credential to new teachers regardless of whether they have completed their preparation. At the federal level, serious discussions are taking place as to what standard, if any, should exist to enter the teaching profession.
Note: This op-ed was submitted to The New York Times but was not published.
A recent column by Bill Keller in The New York Times, “An Industry of Mediocrity,” highlighted a 2005 report by the well-respected Arthur Levine that concluded that the programs that prepare our nation’s educators “range from inadequate to appalling” and set the premise that the profession is a “contended cartel” of low-quality programs that should “feel threatened.” As leaders of AACTE, we view Mr. Keller’s column not as a threat but as an opportunity to do what we do best: educate.