Teacher Prep Regulations and Distance Education: We’ll Soon Need Your Input

The U.S. Department of Education’s long-delayed “Teacher Prep” regulations look like they will soon be back in the limelight. In a subtle addition to the Department’s web page that tracks the progress of this proposed regulation, the following statement was recently added:

“We have formally submitted a supplemental Notice of Proposed Rule Making to the Office of Management and Budget for review that will allow us to collect more public comments specifically on distance education as it relates to teacher preparation. Following the Office of Management and Budget review, we will publish the supplemental NPRM in the Federal Register for public comment.”

Old picture of a teacher in front of a class of young students. Many of them are raising their hands eager to answer a question.

Do graduates of your Education programs inspire learning in students? The Department of Education wants to know.

What Does this Action Tell Us?

This gives us a couple insights:

  • The Teacher Prep regulation is not dead. This regulation has taken many years to develop. When the regulations were first published for public comment, I heard that the resulting submissions were much greater in volume than normal and were overwhelmingly negative. The final regulation was due to be released last year, but was delayed several times. There was some thought that it might never see the light of day. If they are asking for comment, then it is still in play.
  • Our distance education comments had impact. I blogged on my concerns shortly after the regulations were published for comment. WCET partnered with the Online Learning Consortium and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association to submit a formal joint statement. At the time we submitted, we did not find anyone else who had commented on the distance education impact of the proposed language. So far, this is the only issue for which the Department is re-opening comments regarding Teacher Prep regulations.
Picture of a tape measure unrolling.

How do you measure teacher effectiveness?

Why Should You Care?

If you are at an institution that serves pre-licensure education students in other states, then regulation (as proposed) would add requirements for you. Chief among them would be the need to report on several “indicators.” Here’s a summary that was in the last set of proposed regulations, but what will now be proposed might have changed:

  • Student Learning Outcomes. The state would need to measure student growth for students in classes taught by “new teachers” in “tested grades and subjects” (scores in mandated state assessments) and in “non-tested grades and subjects” (measures that are “rigorous and comparable across schools and consistent with State requirements”).
  • Employment Outcomes. These include measures of teacher placement rate, teacher placement rate in high-need schools, the teacher retention rate, and teacher retention rate for high-need schools.
  • Survey Outcomes. The regulations will require reporting on surveys including: a) survey of new teachers to see if they felt their program prepared them to teach, b) an employer survey to capture perceptions of whether the new teachers that they have employed possess the skills needed to succeed in the classroom.
  • Accreditation or Alternative State Approval. The provider needs to determine if: a) “the teacher preparation program is accredited by a specialized accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary for accreditation of professional teacher education programs” or b) meets other state criteria for alternative programs that are too long to list here.

While these requirements for the state to provide the results of these “indicators,” the only way for the state to get the data is by requiring the institution to provide it. If you serve students in several states via distance education and each state has different ways to measure these “indicators,” that could put significant burden on you.

What Should You Do?

We do not know exactly what language the Department might propose or what questions they might ask of us until they release the call for public comments. I’m not sure exactly when that would be, but it will likely be in the next few months.

I suggest opening a preliminary “heads-up” conversation with your leaders in your Education programs that serve students at a distance. You can review the recommendations that we made in our official comments from January 2015. Once the public comments are released, consider submitting your own official comments, participating in commenting through professional organizations within Education, or submit your observations and recommendation to me for consideration for our next round of official comments.

We will keep you posted on next steps.Photo of Russ Poulin with a bat.

Russ Poulin
Director, Policy & Analysis
WCET (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies)
rpoulin@wiche.edu

 

If you are not a member, come join WCET.

Photo credits:
Teacher with Kids Raising Hands: Public Record Office Victoria.
Tape Measure: Morgue File.

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