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AACTE Comments on Teacher-Prep Accountability

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Sharon Robinson, the president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, had some follow-up comments on this post, in which I wrote about how some states "gamed" the teacher-college accountability requirements in the Higher Education Act. Robinson has a different take:

"Under the previous law, universities had to report passage of all graduates on state licensing exams, even candidates for licensure that had not completed the program. Under the new law, universities must report scores for those who have completed required course work. This change ... makes the implications of pass-rates more directly related to program quality and accountability. ...
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Most programs will continue to require some aspect of the licensing process as a graduation requirement. This same process is evidenced in many medical schools. Part I of the medical licensing process is usually undertaken after the second year of medical school. If the candidate does not pass that exam, many programs dismiss the student. What some have called 'gaming' the system, is really an effort to make passage of the exam meaningful so that universities can respond. If the student does not benefit from the instruction, they need to know and be supported in remediation or supported in selecting another career path."

She pointed out that AACTE supported the new, tougher accountability requirements instituted in the 2008 reauthorization bill. In addition to the new requirement referenced above, states now must report scale scores on the tests, which presumably will show whether states have set that bar high or low.

Fair enough, but it will be interesting to see how states and programs themselves respond if a significant number of candidates do fail to pass these exams. Ms. Robinson referenced one such example: the teacher-preparation program at the University of the District of Columbia. The UDC president has said he will close the school's teacher-education program because it graduates only 8 percent of its teacher-candidates, many because they couldn't pass a licensing exam.

"I hope the City Council and other community leaders will support this move and either provide the resources necessary to help students admitted be successful in the program and in meeting licensing requirements, or simply not offer the program. Other states should take note," Robinson writes.

What I'm now wondering about is what a program or state should do if it graduates only 50 percent of its teacher-candidates. That seems like a tougher call than where a program is obviously in trouble, as in D.C.

The secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and James Cibulka, the president of the group that accredits about half the nation's teacher colleges, have both recently said they support the closing of poor-quality teacher-prep programs.

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