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'Insiders' Not Sanguine on Federal Teacher-Prep Regulations

Nearly two-thirds of the "education insiders" questioned in a recent survey are skeptical that the U.S. Department of Education "will take concrete steps to improve teacher preparation in 2013," according to a release today from Whiteboard Advisors, a Washington-based consultancy.

The group periodically surveys insiders—think former Capitol Hill staffers, agency appointees, and policy wonks—for their insight into current federal education policy matters.

The latest survey shows that just 36 percent of those surveyed think that the ED will make a mark on teacher preparation this year.

This is an interesting finding for a few reasons. It's true, on the one hand, that oversight of teacher preparation is primarily a state function and that the USED's regulatory authority in this area is limited. On the other hand, beginning last year at this time, the agency took the bold step of hosting a series of negotiated-rulemaking sessions with the aim of overhauling the teacher-college-accountability provisions in Title II of the Higher Education Act.

It was the first time the agency moved to re-regulate this part of the law, which has been around in some form since 1998. And some of the ideas it floated are being hotly debated in the field, including tying teachers' ability to affect student achievement back to the colleges that prepared them, looking at education market demands, and requiring colleges to meet performance benchmarks in order to offer financial aid through the TEACH program.

The ideas are causing a lot of concern among higher education groups, whose reaction to the rulemaking has largely amounted to "don't tread on me."

But for all that, the insiders don't seem to have much faith in the department's effort. They cite different reasons, however. There's "no money for incentives to drive change," one of those surveyed commented.

Another had harsh words for the powerful higher education lobby: "The ed. schools know how to fight this stuff off; if the administration thought the for-profits were tough, just wait." Still another thinks the ED has fumbled the process: "They don't know how to work with Congress, and their regulatory proposals are meaningless."

The U.S. ED is a bit behind schedule on releasing this regulation, and so far it's not saying what the hold up is. Teacher Beat will keep you posted.

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