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Michigan Moves to Penalize Teacher-Preparation Programs

The Detroit Free Press' Lori Higgins has a good story up about Michigan's accountability process for its teacher-preparation programs, a germane topic given that the U.S. Department of Education plans to release regulations on that federal requirement soon.

She reports that the state's most recent review identified two teachers' colleges, at Mt. Olivet and Lake Superior State University, as "low performing" for three years in a row. In Michigan, that triggers consequences that include being barred from enrolling new students in select certification programs. It's the first time any training program has faced such consequences under the accountability system, which was updated in 2007.

The federal Higher Education Act's Title II requires every state to have an accountability system in place, though the details vary widely. It is sometimes, but not always, synonymous with state program approval, in which the state determines (often in tandem with regional or national accreditation) which colleges are permitted to recommend teachers for licensure. Michigan, for example, appears to use accreditation as just one of six different criteria for its annual review.

A perusal of the scores shows that most of Michigan's teacher-training colleges passed muster on such criteria as: getting good principal feedback, producing teachers in high-need content areas, and having positive reviews from graduating teachers. The programs earned lower marks for failing to get enough prospective teachers to pass the state's teacher-licensing assessments. (As Higgins aptly notes, in a subject like French with few specialists, just one candidate bombing the test can be enough to affect the program rating.)

It's been historically rare for states to identify low-performing programs under their Title II system, and rarer still to shutter programs based on those results. In Michigan, Mt. Olivet and Lake Superior will be expected to phase out programs in certain certification subject areas. Note, though, that the state rules also permit them to be reinstated if the state board of education decides that they've improved enough; clearly, this will be something to watch.

Recently, some public officials have stated bluntly that states are squandering an opportunity to use the program-approval process as a lever to overhaul how their teachers are trained.

Readers, do you know of any other states that have used their program-approval process, or Title II, as a basis for closing programs? I'd be interested in hearing from you, if so.

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