Teacher-training programs to be rated

  • Article by: Motoko Rich
  • New York Times
  • April 25, 2014 - 8:02 PM

The Obama administration announced Friday that it was developing ratings of teacher preparation programs to make them more accountable for their graduates’ classroom performance.

Teacher training programs have frequently come under attack as ill-conceived or mediocre, and teachers themselves have often complained that such programs do not adequately prepare them to handle children with varying needs and abilities.

“We have about 1,400 schools of education and hundreds and hundreds of alternative certification paths, and nobody in this country can tell anybody which one is more effective than the other,” Arne Duncan, the education secretary, said Friday.

“Often the vast majority of schools,” he said, “when I talk to teachers, and have very candid conversations, they feel they weren’t well prepared.”

By this summer, the administration will propose rules for evaluating all teacher training programs, using metrics that could include the number of graduates placed in schools, as well as pass rates on licensing exams, teacher retention rates and job performance ratings.

A 2013 review of 2,420 teacher preparation programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that less than a quarter provided concrete strategies for managing students. Most of them failed to guarantee that teacher candidates would be placed with highly skilled teachers during student-teaching stints.

Any proposals by the administration are likely to stir debate, particularly a requirement that training programs release the evaluation data of their graduates’ performance. Currently, 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have agreed to develop teacher ratings that include student test scores.

Some education experts say that such ratings are unreliable.

“This is about a policy that seeks to rate institutions on something that we just cannot feasibly link them to in terms of responsibility,” said Bruce D. Baker, a professor of education at Rutgers University.

Duncan said teacher preparation should be more like medical training. Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford University, said that if medical schools were judged by mortality rates, schools would not train doctors to treat the sickest patients.

© 2014 Star Tribune