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Groups Press the ED for Teacher-Prep Rules

A wide swath of advocacy organizations, nonprofits, and teacher-training groups this morning sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan demanding "deliberate and swift administrative action" to update the federal rules that govern teacher-preparation program accountability.

As you should know from Education Week's exhaustive (and exhausting?) coverage, the Education Department earlier this year pursued a negotiated-rulemaking process to tie these accountability rules, governed by Title II of the Higher Education Act, to a federal aid program known as TEACH. It wants only high-performing programs to be permitted to offer TEACH scholarships, which subsidize aid for teacher-candidates who teach in shortage subjects in high-need schools for four years. Those negotiations fell apart earlier this year, meaning that the Education Department gets to write the rules on its own.

While we don't know what the final rules will look like, they're likely to correspond to the agency's blueprint for teacher-preparation reform, which would also require states to measure the impact of preparation programs' graduates on student learning, among other things.

The Title II rules have been around in some form since 1998, but more than half the states have never identified a teacher-preparation program as "low performing" under the rules.

The ED is supposed to release its proposed rules, and to solicit public feedback on them, in the next few weeks. (The word on the street is that the agency wants a final rule approved before the November election, for reasons that should be obvious.) The timeline will depend on how quickly the rules clear the White House's budget arm, the Office of Management and Budget, which gets to sign off on administration spending.

The letter, which includes such signatory groups as 50Can, the Council of Great City Schools, Democrats for Education Reform, the Education Trust, and Teach For America, urges the department to try to speed things up.

"Each year, teacher-preparation programs receive approximately $6 billion in support from the federal government," the letter states. "They have both a moral and legal responsibility to carry out the Title II requirements in a way that has a positive and dramatic impact on student learning."

Higher education groups concerned about the shape of the rules have pulled together their own task force, which has laid out a different marker about what the evaluation of teacher education programs should include.

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