Education Department Proposes Reforms to Improve Teacher Preparation Programs and Better Prepare Educators for Classroom Success

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Education Department Proposes Reforms to Improve Teacher Preparation Programs and Better Prepare Educators for Classroom Success

September 30, 2011
Note to Editors: There will be a press call today to discuss this announcement at 1:45 p.m. ET. Members of the press may join by dialing 877-950-3597 and giving the passcode: "teachers."

Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced its strategy to ensure teachers are ready to enter the classroom by proposing a series of initiatives to reward the best teacher preparation programs, improve the quality at schools of education, and remove burdensome regulations. These reforms are part of the Obama Administration's effort to support educators and make government programs work better for teachers and students.

"Too many future teachers graduate from prep programs unprepared for success in the classroom," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "We have to give teachers the support they need to ensure that children get the high quality education they deserve. Our goal is to develop a system that recognizes and rewards good programs, and encourages all of them to improve."

The Administration's reform plan has broad support across the education community, including the National Education Association, Teach For America and education school leaders.

"NEA has long championed approaches that support rigorous entry into the profession of teaching. This plan is a useful tool in helping to ensure that candidates entering the profession from any pathway meet the same high and rigorous standards," said National Education President Dennis Van Roekel. "There are many teacher preparation programs across the country that prepare quality candidates. Now we need to develop the systems that will help to evaluate and more broadly support both program and candidate quality."

"Identifying and learning from top-performing teacher-preparation programs is one important strategy to further the teaching profession in our country," said Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach For America. "It is critically important to regularly analyze the effectiveness of our teacher-preparation pathways, and this analysis should include an objective and rigorous examination of the average learning gains of students. States that annually conduct such analyses, such as Louisiana and Tennessee, are providing valuable feedback to teacher-preparation programs, including Teach For America, and helping to inform school and district hiring decisions."

"The Administration's proposal makes clear that the ability to teach is something to learn, and therefore to be taught. This puts the focus where it should be: beginning teachers' readiness to practice independently," said Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the University of Michigan School of Education. "Setting performance requirements for responsible teaching is one of the most important improvements that the U.S. could make to ensure learning by all students. This teacher education plan takes an important stand—it's the outcomes of teacher preparation that matter most."

The Department is initiating a series of reform efforts to ensure future teachers are better supported. First, based on existing authority in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the Department is proposing to reduce the reporting burden on schools of education and states, which are currently required to report 440 different measures annually. The Department recommends far fewer input measures and at least three significant outcome measures that are indicators of quality. The Department wants states to identify the best teacher preparation programs and encourage others to improve by linking student test scores back to teachers and their schools of education. Through negotiated rulemaking, the Department hopes to receive the education community's feedback on what this reform should look like and how it would work best for them.

Second, the Department has proposed a $185 million Presidential Teaching Fellows program to support rigorous state-level policies and provide scholarships for future teachers to attend top programs. These future educators would be prepped to teach high-need subjects or fields, and upon graduation, teach for at least three years in high-need schools. In addition, the Department is developing Hawkins Centers for Excellence that will help prepare the next generation of effective minority teachers. The President's budget proposes $40 million in first-time funding for this already-authorized program to support and diversify the teaching workforce. Minority-serving institutions will be eligible to receive competitive grants to reform and expand their teacher preparation programs. Funds can be used to partner with local school districts or non-profit organizations to help place minority candidates into high-need schools.

Together, these initiatives will reward and support the best programs, remove burdens from institutions and help programs improve so education schools can better prepare future teachers for classroom realities. For more information on these efforts, see Our Future, Our Teachers: The Obama Administration's Plan for Teacher Education Reform and Improvement: