A Better Way to Evaluate Teacher Prep Programs: Secretary King Unveils New Guidelines in L.A.

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United States Secretary of Education John King was joined by Los Angeles Superintendent Michelle King and a number of education leaders at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education Wednesday to announce the release of his department’s new teacher preparation regulations.
The regulations call for more detailed information to be gathered on how new teachers are performing, aim to provide better tracking of retention rates, offer more flexibility to states in how they measure the performance of preparation programs and require states to report annual ratings on their programs.

“The regulations really try to establish a better feedback between our K-12 schools and our teacher preparation programs, so that teacher preparation programs are getting good information about how their graduates are doing,” Sec. King said to a group of reporters. “What kinds of schools are they going into? Are they staying in those schools? Are they being retained in the teaching profession? What kind of impact are they having on their students that they teach?”

In his opening remarks at USC, Sec. King referred to the information gathered in the old regulations as “surface data,” and Superintendent King offered praise for the new, more detailed data the regulations call for.

“The use of data and really focusing on outcomes, I really think, is critical. And so whenever we can put that in place, I think it helps drive the whole system forward, which is important,” Superintendent King told LA School Report when asked how the new regulations would affect her district. “And we certainly want teachers that are prepared, that are making an impact and a difference for kids. And so we can look at that and go back and have our partnerships with the different universities and say, ‘Look, this is what’s working.’”

The new regulations also will:

  • Punish low-performing programs by cutting off federal TEACH grants.

  • Require feedback from graduates and their employers on the effectiveness of their program.

  • Give guidelines for measuring the student learning outcomes of those under novice teachers, including academic performance.

The new regulations were criticized by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

“It is, quite simply, ludicrous to propose evaluating teacher preparation programs based on the performance of the students taught by a program’s graduates,” Weingarten said in a statement.

The new regulations have been in the works for at least five years and were begun under Sec. King’s predecessor, Arne Duncan, who stepped down in 2015. Earlier this month, in an open letter to college presidents and education school deans, Duncan said, “The system we have for training teachers lacks rigor, is out of step with the times, and is given to extreme grade inflation that leaves teachers unprepared and their future students at risk.”

Sec. King also participated in a roundtable discussion at Rossier, where he was joined by Department of Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, Superintendent King, Rossier School of Education Dean Karen Symms Gallagher and a number of education leaders. Also at the table were some educators and administrators at LA Unified schools, including Norma Spencer, principal of the Alexander Science Center, and Kristen McGregor, principal of Belmont High School.

One issue that was raised several times was the problem of teacher retention and the teacher shortage plaguing the nation. According to a new study from the Learning Policy Institute, enrollment in teacher preparation programs dropped from 691,000 in 2009 to 451,000 in 2014. And according to a recent commentary posted to LA School Report by Jane Mayer and Jesse Soza, approximately 11,000 Los Angeles teachers are predicted to leave the profession in the next five years.

“What I have learned is that teachers are feeling isolated, and when they don’t have other teachers or a support team there, they are more likely not to stay within the profession,” Superintendent King said during the discussion.

Kearstie Hernandez, a chemistry teacher at Huntington Park High School and a 2014 Rossier graduate, listed during the roundtable discussion all the different roles she has taken on at her school, including head of the girls’ basketball program, assistant athletic director and head of the science fair.

“I sleep five hours a day. I commute an hour in the morning and an hour and a half in the evening back home,” she said.

Superintendent King was impressed with the list — and concerned.

“I was listening to all that stuff. That’s a lot for a new person. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, she is going to hit the wall and burn out,” King told LA School Report. “So we really have to be very intentional about that and put the supports around them and really hook them up with other people. Because if you don’t, three years out, they just say, ‘It’s too much.

During his closing remarks at the end of the panel discussion, Sec. King had praise for Superintendent King and LA Unified.

“Certainly, Michelle, I really admire the things you are doing in LA and your commitment that LAUSD has to continue to get better and close gaps and create better opportunity. And your willingness to have the hard conversations to make that happen, I appreciate,” he said.

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