The Badass Teachers Association calls for changes to be made to the Department of Education’s recent legislative proposal to attach student test scores to the effectiveness of new teachers and their credentialing programs. This proposal, under the guise of providing access to more meaningful indicators of teacher preparation program performance, proposes to create a continuous feedback loop of communication between school districts and institutions of higher learning to facilitate program improvement and provide information that can be used by potential employers to guide their hiring decisions as well as prospective teachers to guide their application decisions.
We disagree with the premise that teacher preparation programs are not adequately preparing teachers. The trend of a higher attrition rate for new teachers has little to do with how well they are educationally prepared and armed with theoretical knowledge of classroom management and teaching skills. This is yet another false narrative created in an attempt to disguise the fact that the over-management of the classroom by people who have little educational background or training is one of the biggest causes of stress for any educator and therefore, one of the leading reasons teachers leave the classroom. This legislation fails to acknowledge the very people that it proposes to assist – new teachers and underserved student populations. This new proposed rule sets in motion the construction of yet another data analysis system that fails to address the real issues that are faced by the new teacher in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
The Department of Education is seeking to define “high-quality teacher program” through statutory regulation in an attempt to provide limits and definitions for the purpose of establishing TEACH Grant eligibility. Authorized under title IV of the HEA, the TEACH Grant program provides aid to students and institutes of higher learning who are preparing to become teachers. In return, a student must teach in a low-income school and in a high-need field for four years. Effectively, the groundwork is being laid for a decimation of the TEACH grant program. If a teacher that is teaching in a low-income or high-need school, the fact that is still being ignored is that student educational achievement is directly related to a student’s socio-economic status. Research shows that student growth scores will not be measurably increased in these areas until the issues of poverty are dealt with; the perceived effectiveness of schools that educate teachers to teach in these urban and rural areas will not be rated highly and grant eligibility will likely be revoked. The DOE does not need to put more obstacles in the way of the student teacher who decides to serve in our underserved community and that will be the effect if this new proposal is enacted.
The future of teacher preparation programs will become as segregated as our children’s schools are becoming. The effective programs will be identifiable as the higher tuition university level schools that are financially unattainable to most of our young future teachers that our students are desperately in need of – our future teachers of color. Financial obligations that were once legislatively responsible by the Federal government under the TEACH grant will lessen as fewer teachers seek to teach in these areas as their evaluation scores are becoming more reliant upon student factors that are beyond their control. The Department of Education currently predicts that 75% of TEACH recipients fail to fulfill the requirements of the TEACH grant. But with this proposed legislation, institutions of higher learning will shirk their responsibility to provide quality teachers to these areas in fear of receiving a less than “exceptional” or “effective” rating. Once again, our students are the ones that are destined to suffer with the consequences of these legislative decisions.
The Badass Teachers Association calls for changes to be made to these legislative proposals. We agree that there is a need to become proactive to address the falling retention rate of teachers. But, it is in the best interest of education to address the real issues of creating more supportive mentoring programs that will assist a new teacher in the first one to four years in a classroom setting rather than to adjust the limited time frame that most states currently have in place as their mentoring and student teaching programs. We see long-term value in the development of stronger mentoring programs that continue to support new teachers that will help the high rate of attrition of teachers within their first five years. In turn, this will benefit students by creating an educational team within a district that has invested in the future of the school and the futures of these students.
We strongly urge that all funding for programs that circumvent appropriate teacher preparation needs, such as Teach for America, be discontinued. The premise that these organizations are based upon, that one only needs a minor amount of training to be placed into the classroom are detrimental to the fabric of the educational profession. Additionally, teacher preparation and certification materials which use online testing formats should be reviewed for academic validity. Profit-making from our students is a growing concern and any profiteering from teacher preparation, certification, re-certification and endorsement processes should be eliminated.
The means through which corporations have been allowed to profit from our schools needs to be examined. Common Core standardization, data collection, and testing regimes have all given access to money making educational companies and guidance from any organization that promotes this needs to be examined and abandoned, including the Higher Educational Trust Organizations such as NASULGC and ASCU, AAUP, NCTQ, and Education Trust. Educational leadership proponents who provide policy input to Chief Superintendents and advocate top-down management need to be disaggregated from the discussion of teacher preparation, insofar as efficacy rather than efficiency has more direct bearing on pedagogical evaluation and teacher preparation.
We know, as professionals, that data can be a valuable tool in the decision making process. But that data loses credibility when there are too many factors that can influence the end numbers that are used for analysis. This is the case in the reporting procedures that Arne Duncan has proposed by tying student test scores, through a new teacher, back to an institute of higher learning. Uncontrollable variables, such as administrative influence, student population variables, the composition of the district board of education, budgetary restrictions, and access to resources are all factors that have an influence on the educational performance of students within a district and within a specific classroom. There is no statistical value in holding an institution of higher learning accountable for the data outcomes when they are only responsible for affecting one factor of the input, the education of future teachers. The Value Added Model has been refuted and must be abandoned in the methodology of teacher preparation, evaluation, certification, re-certification, and endorsement programs.
There is value to the concerns that have been raised to analyze and improve teacher preparation programs. We agree that there are factors that can be improved upon that will directly impact these programs and help them become more effective to address the needs of our students in our changing classrooms. However, basing these improvements upon student data that is a small representation of the future potential of children as well as fails to acknowledge the real indicators of a child’s educational success should not be considered for policy based upon best educational practices.