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Final Teacher-Prep Regulation May Reduce Testing Demands

The U.S. Department of Education says it plans to ease up on test requirements as part of its pending teacher-preparation regulation.

That regulation, which is scheduled to appear in December, aims to put more teeth in federal accountability requirements by requiring each state to classify all of its teacher-preparation programs into one of four categories, from "low performing" to "exceptional." The regulation was promptly greeted with howls of protest from the higher education community, largely because all programs must be judged in part on how well students taught by graduates of those programs perform.

But in its weekend announcement, the ED promised the regs' testing requirement would get a second look.

"In the coming weeks, we will release a final rule that maintains a focus on student learning, but provides states flexibility on how to weigh the results of statewide standardized tests and measures of student learning more broadly in any teacher preparation accountability system that it develops," the agency said.

Now here's a parlor game for you: Just what does that mean? 

The regulation itself was unclear on this point. Of the required indicators, states would have to weigh student achievement "in significant part" in making their determinations. The proposed regs also stated that, in English/language arts and math, student growth must be based in part off of state standardized test results and/or teacher evaluations that incorporate those results. (More flexible measures can be used for other subjects.)

So, will a final reg remove this "significant" language? That's one approach. But it would also pretty much be a symbolic one, because the feds have never specified exactly what "significant" is supposed to mean in the first place. Less likely, but still possible: It will drop the requirement that state tests be used for the growth measure.

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