The U.S. Department of Education published regulations today to help ensure that new teachers are ready to succeed in the classroom and that every student is taught by a great educator. The regulations build on progress happening across the country and take into account the extensive and valuable feedback shared with the Department since draft rules were first released. The regulations aim to bring transparency to the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs, provide programs with ongoing feedback to help them improve continuously, and respond to educators across the country who do not feel ready to enter the classroom after graduation.
"As an educator, I know that one of the strongest in-school influences on students is the teacher in front of the classroom," said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. "As a nation, there is so much more we can do to help prepare our teachers and create a diverse educator workforce. Prospective teachers need good information to select the right program; school districts need access to the best trained professionals for every opening in every school; and preparation programs need feedback about their graduates' experiences in schools to refine their programs. These regulations will help strengthen teacher preparation so that prospective teachers get off to the best start they can, and preparation programs can meet the needs of students and schools for great educators."
Roughly 460,000 individuals were enrolled in traditional and alternative route to certification teacher preparation programs in 2013-14. Before, these prospective teachers did not have basic information about whether their programs had a track record of success with respect to employment outcomes, whether program completers felt well-prepared for the rigors of the classroom, or whether the program completers demonstrated success in improving student learning outcomes. Far too many teachers say they feel unprepared for the classroom after completing teacher preparation programs, yet we know that there is no more important in-school factor for student learning than having a great teacher, particularly in our highest-need communities. That's why it is essential that we encourage strong and diverse preparation programs that can generate pipelines of new teachers with the right mix of knowledge and skills to meet the full range of needs in classrooms across the country.
The rules released today focus on promoting stronger outcomes for all programs, including traditional, those providing alternative routes to certification, and those provided through distance education, while giving states significant flexibility in how they measure program performance to reflect local needs and priorities. More specifically, the rules require new reporting by states—beyond the basic measures they are required to report annually under the Higher Education Act—about program effectiveness to drive continuous improvement by facilitating ongoing feedback amongst programs, prospective teachers, schools and districts, states and the public. The regulations also aim to provide better information to address the mismatch between the available teaching jobs and fields in which programs are preparing educators, and to enable districts and schools to deploy their best teachers where they are needed the most.
This transparency is also giving prospective teacher candidates better access to information about the strengths of different programs so they can choose a preparation program that is right for them. This rule builds on the innovative work happening around the country to help all of our states, districts, and preparation programs identify whether and where their graduates are entering teaching, how long they stay, and how they perform in the classroom. States like Delaware and Louisiana have implemented program-level reporting on effectiveness. Program providers are also fostering support and improvement, like Arizona State University, which uses data to match a variety of traditional and alternative route preparation programs to the needs of Arizona schools, and the Relay Graduate School of Education, which provides teacher residency programs that require teachers to demonstrate evidence of effectiveness in classrooms before completion.
The final regulations released today incorporate extensive stakeholder and public feedback obtained throughout four years of negotiated rulemaking, public hearings, and public comment processes. The Department received nearly 5,000 comments on the draft rules proposed in 2014, and those thoughtful questions and suggestions resulted in a better, stronger, and clearer rule.
Key provisions of the regulations include:
Providing transparency around the effectiveness of all preparation programs (traditional, alternative routes, and distance) by requiring states to report annually—at the program level—on the following measures:
Placement and retention rates of graduates in their first three years of teaching, including placement and retention in high-need schools;
Feedback from graduates and their employers on the effectiveness of program preparation;
Student learning outcomes measured by novice teachers' student growth, teacher evaluation results, and/or another state-determined measure that is relevant to students' outcomes, including academic performance, and meaningfully differentiates amongst teachers; and
Other program characteristics, including assurances that the program has specialized accreditation or graduates candidates with content and pedagogical knowledge, and quality clinical preparation, who have met rigorous exit requirements.
Allowing states flexibility in whether to report on additional measures, and how to weigh all outcome measures, while requiring states to categorize program effectiveness using at least three levels of performance (effective, at-risk, and low-performing). States must provide technical assistance to any program rated as low-performing to help it improve.
Requiring states to engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including educators and a wide range of program providers, in developing and/or improving their meaningful systems to identify effective and low-performing programs.
Incentivizing aspiring teachers in a high-need field or in a low-income school to attend high-quality programs by limiting TEACH grants to only those programs that states determine to be effective for at least two of the previous three years.
States will design their reporting system, in consultation with stakeholders, during the 2016-17 academic year. They may choose to use 2017-18 as a pilot year and will fully implement the system in 2018-19. The first year for which any program might lose TEACH grant eligibility will be 2021-22.
In response to the comments the Department received on the draft regulations, we made numerous changes to address concerns raised, including:
Consistent with the President's Testing Action Plan, the Department increased flexibility in how states measure student learning outcomes and weigh various components of their systems, specifically by allowing states to determine their own student learning outcome measures that are relevant, but not necessarily directly tied, to student achievement or educator evaluation results.
The Department provided additional information and clarity on how the rule applies to teacher preparation programs provided through distance education.
The Department eliminated the requirement that states rate alternative route preparation programs based on teacher placement rates, given that many of these programs require placement at entry, which means it is not necessarily a helpful way to differentiate among programs. However, states must still report on placement in high-need schools, as are all programs.
The Department removed the requirement that states ensure that programs maintain a high bar of selectivity for students to enter the program, so long as they maintain a high bar to exit, to allow programs to recruit a more diverse student body while maintaining the requirements for quality preparation as shown by graduation.
Supporting Teachers and School Leaders
Today's announcement builds on years of work the Administration has done to support teachers and school leaders in providing a world-class education for every student. Through programs like the Teacher Incentive Fund, Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), and the Race to the Top Fund, the Administration has been working with states and school districts across the country to find innovative new ways to develop, support and retain the educators they need. The Department has cultivated Teach to Lead, an initiative to ensure that teachers have the opportunity to play a critical role in the decisions that impact their classrooms and their students without leaving the classroom.
The Administration has also focused specifically on elevating and strengthening the teaching profession, including by proposing a streamlined and expanded initiative to provide up to $25,000 in student loan forgiveness for teachers graduating from an effective preparation program who serve in high-need schools. President Obama's Best Job in the World program, included in the FY17 budget, would make a one-time, $1 billion mandatory investment to support a nationwide effort to attract and retain effective teachers in high-need schools by increasing compensation and paths for advancement, implementing teacher-led development opportunities to improve instruction, and creating working conditions and school climates conducive to student success. These regulations will also build on work underway in every state to ensure that all students have equitable access to a great educator.
The full text of the final regulation is available here. To provide additional support and clarity, the Department will soon release non-regulatory guidance for states and districts on teacher preparation.