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Negotiators Weigh Inputs vs. Outputs in Judging Teacher Prep


Negotiators trying to hash out new federal regulations for teacher-preparation programs seem to have hit the first major stumbling block on the road: Should the evaluation of teacher education be based primarily on output measures, or should it be coupled with measures of "inputs," like how much student-teaching candidates receive?

The U.S. Department of Education's draft proposal, which negotiators are marking up this week, proposed three new outcomes-based measures, on top of whatever criteria states currently use to evaluate programs as required by the Higher Education Act. The measures are employment outcomes, student outcomes, and customer-satisfaction surveys. They would be used as part of a four-tiered system for rating teacher preparation programs as "low-performing," "at-risk," "satisfactory," or "high quality."

On Monday and again this morning, some negotiators criticized those measures as too narrow. A caucus of negotiators, led by the National Education Association's Segun Eubanks, have proposed three new measures that would be used to judge programs: candidates' content and pedagogical knowledge; quality of field experiences; and exit qualifications based on performance exams.

"If we are going to use these output standards to determine quality of programs, then these additional measures are absolutely essential," Eubanks said. "You could in fact determine your teacher ed. program is failing without ever visiting an institution, without ever interviewing a graduate, simply by looking at these mathematical formulas. ... We've been down this road with teacher-preparation programs and even AYP."

Qualitative data of the sort the caucus is calling for are collected in some form or fashion as part of the Title II state and institutional report cards. But remember, those data don't actually inform the designation of program quality.

The input proposal hasn't gone over that well with other negotiators, who say that adding a bunch of these factors would potentially muddy the waters on teacher-preparation effectiveness.

"The outputs are going to outweigh the inputs no matter how high caliber they are," said Thalia Nawi, the director of the Denver Teacher Residency. "I'm interested in whether a teacher can advance student learning, and I think that's where we need to sit here in terms of reporting."

And David Steiner, the dean of Hunter College's school of education in New York and another negotiator, believes they'd also prove to be unworkable.

"It's just inappropriate to be able for a state to judge whether several thousand programs, at several hundred schools of education, inculcate in students a "love of learning,' " he said. "It's not about it being difficult, it's about the misappropriation of it into a realm that I don't think is capable of doing it well."

Is there a compromise on the horizon? Stay tuned as the caucus returns to the negotiating table. Watch this item for updates.

UPDATED, 12:21 p.m.: The negotiators agreed to incorporate a fourth required indicator for classifying programs. This indicator would require states to weigh either accreditation or a state program-approval that takes the three proposed input criteria into account.

UPDATED: 1:50 p.m. Or maybe not. A few negotiators now are pushing to prevent states from making the fourth, input-based indicator the predominant weight in the performance system. Stay tuned.

UPDATED: 2:41 p.m. The caucus has reconvened (again) and proposes that no program be deemed "satisfactory" or "high quality" if they don't get a satisfactory rating on the student-outcomes portion of the program evaluation. They also deleted teacher retention as an employment-outcome measure. How will this go over with negotiators? Discussion is resuming now.

UPDATED 2:52 p.m. Halleluiah. The negotiators have tentatively agreed to this change.

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