A recent report by the think tank Third Way claims that the federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant program is failing to meet its aims, instead burdening nearly 40% of recipients to date with converted unsubsidized loans after they failed to complete all program requirements.
The report calls for changes to the program, either through “short-term fixes” such as reducing reporting requirements and limiting grant use to “high-performing” programs (as proposed in the new federal regulations for teacher preparation programs) or, preferably, in a thorough overhaul that streamlines all federal assistance for teachers into a simple loan-forgiveness program.
Unfortunately, although loan forgiveness and easier rules sound appealing, the proposed revisions would have severe equity implications. Rather than enabling prospective teachers to attend college in the first place, a loan-forgiveness program would require students to find alternative funding initially and only see reimbursement once they enter the teaching profession. Limiting access to college conflicts directly with the purposes of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, of which TEACH grants are a part.
Although this conflict is a clear deal breaker, it is not the only shortcoming of the Third Way proposal. The report also claims that a majority of TEACH grant recipients attend “low-performing” preparation programs, based on rankings of graduate education programs in U.S. News and World Report and information obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request of the U.S. Department of Education. Not only are the U.S. News rankings based on weak methodology that heavily weighs “peer and superintendent assessment,” they also apply only to graduate programs—whereas the federal TEACH grant data do not distinguish undergraduate from graduate-level grants. The report loses credibility for ignoring these differences.
AACTE supports a different federal policy solution, the Educator Preparation Reform Act (EPRA), which would restrict grant eligibility to juniors, seniors, and master’s-level students while also preventing the use of TEACH grant funds at programs deemed “low performing” or “at risk” by the state. The EPRA would also create a proportional payback provision that would give “credit” to those students who were unable to complete the full term of their service obligation, reducing the amount that would get converted to a loan.
An in-depth review of the TEACH grant program would be useful and welcome, but the Third Way proposal comes up short.
Before we all head to Atlanta for AACTE’s 67th Annual Meeting, I asked a few past attendees to share tips for what to do at the event. Here’s some useful guidance from Jennifer Waddell, associate director of the Institute for Urban Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
1. Be ready to network. The Annual Meeting is a great avenue for connecting with colleagues, new and former, from around the country. Arrive to sessions early and attend the receptions; you won’t be disappointed!
2. Differentiate your experiences. Sessions at the Annual Meeting vary, with presentations from well-known as well as upcoming scholars in the field. To get the most out of your experience, attend sessions in a variety of formats. The general sessions and major forums are great for hearing about current trends, while the symposiums, paper sessions, and roundtables offer more intimate settings for in-depth conversations.
3. The exhibit hall is not just about exhibits. The exhibit hall (Conference Community Center) is another great avenue for connecting with colleagues and networking. There are opportunities for informal conversation, learning about the latest in educational resources, and even an occasional cup of coffee or other refreshment. Be sure to stop by!
4. Be ready to have fun. One of my favorite things about the Annual Meeting is the positive energy and enthusiasm that abounds from all corners of the meeting. Sessions, receptions, and the restaurants are full of colleagues who are excited about the work and ready for the challenges that lie ahead. This is not a conference in which you attend a few sessions and then hibernate in your room. The more you are “out and about,” the more meaning you will gain from the experience. Be sure to arrive well-rested and ready to be impressed!
Still need to register? Don’t delay—discounted registration closes February 2. Register today!
This post also appears on the Public School Insights blog of the Learning First Alliance.
Last week, the White House announced a new push to protect students’ digital privacy, as ever-expanding data collection efforts heighten concerns from parents and advocacy groups about appropriate uses of the data. Institutions of higher education share the administration’s priority to protect elementary and secondary students and uphold diligent safety and privacy practices in preparing teachers for the classroom. Ultimately, safeguarding student data is everyone’s business.
In the teacher preparation field, we’ve gained quite a bit of experience in this realm, especially through our growing use of video recordings in clinical settings. Many programs deploy video cameras, or even just iPads, to capture student teaching segments that can be reviewed by supervisors or used for assessment purposes. These technological developments have improved feedback to candidates and given programs an invaluable window into their students’ practice—but they have to be used with care.
Indeed, our faculty, PK-12 partners, and teacher candidates all must understand and follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of the students with whom they interact. Like any other professional preparation program that includes a clinical component, teacher preparation programs have to educate their candidates on the privacy practices of the industry. Our field has taken great care to develop clear guidance for teacher candidates working on their edTPA videos, for example, protecting student identity, managing parental permission, and even positioning the camera strategically. Moreover, the final videos are not shared or used beyond their intended purposes of assessing the candidate’s teaching ability and conducting research on the validity and reliability of the assessment instrument.
Good federal legislation will support these efforts and help us strengthen these policies going forward. Absent clear rules, each district or preparation program has to define practices around student data, and much energy is spent addressing concerns about privacy issues. This is not a marginal or insignificant topic, especially when the answers are unclear.
The legislation proposed by the White House, the Student Digital Privacy Act, is modeled on a recently passed law in the state of California that takes effect next year. The state law bans data mining by private companies, targeting students with customized advertising, and more. Current federal privacy laws are much weaker and stand to benefit from more thorough protections.
As a board member of the Data Quality Campaign, I’ve been privileged to also serve on its working group developing principles around this very issue. President Obama’s move to advance the cause is a heartening advancement toward helping the field support learners with appropriate uses of technology and personal data. I would hope these policies would also apply to postsecondary students. We are all one profession facing this important issue together.
With an intention of generating 100,000 comments to the U.S. Department of Education on its proposed regulations for teacher preparation programs, the members of the AACTE Committee on Government Relations and Advocacy are leading the charge with a Twitter campaign to spread awareness of the proposed regulations.
Remember, the deadline to comment is February 2, and the teacher preparation profession’s voice must be heard! (See AACTE’s regulations web page for more information.)
Please join our Twitter campaign at #EDregs to help us reach out to colleagues, public officials, students, organizations, and the public to help generate more conversation on Twitter about the regulations—leading, we hope, to more comments submitted to the government.
How to Participate
Include the hashtag #EDregs in every tweet about the regulations. Possible messages include general or targeted encouragement to respond, highlights of a particular concern or detail in the regulations, reminders of the deadline, or links to relevant resources.
To get you started, you might consult these resources in determining what to tweet:
Tweets can tag other Twitter users to invite their response, or simply to call their attention to your message or involvement. For example, I might tweet to AACTE:
Other examples you might use:
It’s also helpful to retweet others’ messages that resonate with you. Be sure to follow the #EDregs stream and retweet or “favorite” any tweets you like.
As a general rule, if you plan to tweet to someone, “follow” the person on Twitter first. People are more likely to reply or pay attention to your tweet if you are already following them.
Click here for a list of key public officials and national organizations to which you might want to tweet. Reach out to others of local importance to your institution.
While we are focusing on a Twitter campaign, we also encourage you to post on any forms of social media. The end goal is to get as many people as possible to comment on the proposed regulations. Help us meet our goal of 100,000 comments! MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.
Questions? E-mail email@example.com.
Academic leaders in teacher education are currently faced with unprecedented policy pressures related to collecting, reporting, and acting on an intensifying array of program outcome measures. Moreover, many of the state and federal policies driving these pressures are saturated with paradox, attempting to address multiple and often contradictory goals. Perhaps the most fundamental of these is related to the essential tension between policy goals related to identifying and eliminating “low-performing programs,” and those related to “program improvement.” Coping with contradictory discourses and policies related to accountability, program improvement, and “data use” has become one of the facts of life experienced by virtually all contemporary teacher educators.
Over the past 3 years, my colleagues and I have been engaged in a collaborative effort with AACTE to locate and learn from teacher education programs that have developed strategies for navigating these policy tensions in ways that support and sustain their work. While the ostensive focus of our research has been on issues of data use, perhaps our most important and consistent finding has been about the ways in which some teacher education programs resist pressures to organize their work around issues of “compliance” with state and federal accountability requirements by adopting a continual focus on internal “inquiry” and improvement of their own practice.
From what we have seen, developing and sustaining a culture of continuous and collegial inquiry around program improvement begins with imaginative and strategic leadership. And in the programs we have observed we have been impressed with the ways in which many of these leadership qualities are distributed across multiple academic leaders, faculty, and staff. Strategic leadership actions often focus on creating concrete supports for the time-consuming work of examining artifacts of candidate learning and other valued program outcomes. They may involve organizing and allocating program meeting time in new ways, or investing in the acquisition and/or development of information technologies that make analysis of program processes and outcomes more practical within the ongoing challenges of scarce time and resources.
Perhaps most fundamentally, we have observed program leaders — whether located in the dean’s office or in classrooms supervising fieldwork — engaging in a process of “reframing” in which they actively assist candidates, cooperating teachers, and faculty in imagining how they may use (at least some of) the intensifying accountability requirements for their own purposes, addressing local questions about the improvement of practice. (See this video for several examples of how programs have used one particularly valuable data source, edTPA, to undertake this kind of local inquiry).
In the end, perhaps the most remarkable thing we have noticed in many of the inquiry-oriented programs we have visited over the past 3 years has been the sense of energy and engagement that pervades their work. This is not to say that nodes of alienation and dissatisfaction do not exist — much less that they should not exist. But it does suggest to us that one of the most effective strategies for resisting the sense of disempowerment and demoralization that pervades so many contemporary narratives within teacher education may actually lie in proactively turning the pressures of accountability into resources for local program renewal and improvement.
Please join in a discussion of our findings during AACTE’s Annual Meeting Twitter Town Hall at #AACTE15, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST Wednesday, January 28. Hear from our research team on our discovery of common challenges and effective strategies that program leaders employ to implement data-use activities for program improvement.
You may also learn more at AACTE’s 67th Annual Meeting, February 27 – March 1 in Atlanta, Georgia. Plan to attend our concurrent session, Building Capacity for Using Data for Program Improvement, Sunday, March 1, 2:30–3:30 p.m. EST. Register here.
We have an opportunity to make our voices heard. Though the proposed federal regulations for teacher preparation programs were released for comment most inconveniently during the hurly burly of exams and the holidays, I was determined to find a festive, collegial way to engage the faculty and students at my institution in contributing our knowledge and experience by February 2.
AACTE’s challenge to generate 100,000 comments inspired me. There’s no guarantee that the U.S. Department of Education will listen, of course, but an onslaught of letters will hopefully grab their attention. The question for me: How to spur people to actually read and respond to the proposal.
Then I recalled of an approach that had worked well in a similar situation: throw a party! Back in my days as a high school teacher, when I advised the school’s Amnesty International club, our meetings were social and organized around working together to raise our voices. After sharing snacks in a lounge room, students read through the profiles and cases, discussed their merits and concerns as a group, and then individually drafted letters, which I packaged and mailed for them afterward. Our meetings were educational, productive, and fun.
Why not try the same approach for the federal regulations? I decided to invite faculty to my house for a grown-up version of the Amnesty club party, and also invite my students to come early to class for their own letter-writing bash, all in the latter two weeks of January. From my vantage point, if even one person comes, it’s a victory.
I’ll provide the snacks and libations at my house (or in a common meeting room, in the case of the student group). Everyone will bring laptops so they can access documents and draft letters. Together we’ll learn about the regulations, read through the resources developed by AACTE and others, discuss what parts of the proposal matter most to us as educators and in our particular state context, and then each write our own letter to Secretary Duncan.
I hope that face-to-face conversations in a relaxed setting will gin up people’s interest and help them formulate compelling responses. The goal is to come together to participate in the democratic process. Ultimately, I hope, we’ll contribute our fair share of feedback to the Department’s unprecedented intrusion into teacher education.
Editor’s Note: Visit AACTE’s regulations web page for information and links to a variety of resources, and send any questions for us to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d like to hear from you! Or comment below on any special strategies you are using to raise awareness about the regulations and engage colleagues, students, PK-12 partners, or others. Have you rallied your state chapter around data-sharing challenges? Tapped your resident VAM scholar to speak at a department meeting? Worked with your state education agency to estimate costs or gauge the feasibility of enacting the regulations? Every comment counts!