Duncan Introduces Plan to Reform and Improve Teacher Prep

“America’s teachers and America’s children deserve world-class preparation programs that prepare teachers for today’s classrooms and students for today’s information age,” said Secretary Duncan earlier today as he announced ED’s proposed reforms to improve teacher preparation programs and better prepare educators for classroom success.

The Department’s plan has three core elements:

    1. ED is proposing to reduce the reporting burden on schools of education and states. The Department wants states to identify the best teacher preparation programs and encourage others to improve by linking student test scores back to teachers and their schools of education.
    2. The Department has proposed a $185 million Presidential Teaching Fellows program to support rigorous state-level policies and provide scholarships for future leaders to attend top programs.
    3. ED’s plan will provide more support for institutions that prepare high-quality teachers from diverse backgrounds.

For additional information, read Our Future, Our Teachers: the Obama Administration’s Plan for Teacher Education Reform and Improvement.


  1. How can you base accountability for teachers and for teacher preparation programs on tests created by testing companies who are not accountable to anyone? The actual stakeholders can monitor neither the quality of the questions nor the validity of the scoring.

  2. As a parent and taxpayer I’m tired of education funds being directed AWAY from the classroom for “education reform” that lines the pockets of outside vendors. The problem with education isn’t that teachers are not properly trained, the problem is education policy that doesn’t allow teachers to teach because they are busy adhering to the parameters of the education policy!

    I live in Washington State and I see millions of dollars wasted on “education reform” because of Race to the Top requirements (none of which improve the educational experience of students – computer tracking systems, new teacher evaluations, adoption of the CCSS). I see $190 million being wasted on implementing the Common Core State Standards (in case you didn’t know, our state’s existing math standards are rated higher than the CCSS by the Fordham Institute and we just paid to implement them a few years ago). I see hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on state assessments that satisfy the NCLB Act requirements and I also see the state wasting money on tests that are NOT required by NCLB and on making the 10th grade tests graduation requirements which require 1) retesting (up to 5 times) and 2) a cost of $800 for each student who fails the tests and decides they want to submit a collection of work instead of passing the tests, and 3) students who feel their only choice is to drop out or they are not allowed to graduate. Please read the book, “Making the Grades, My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry” by Todd Farley. When the tests are valid and the scoring is valid, I’ll trust the results but until then, I hope you won’t mind if I consider them a very expensive, worthless non-evaluation of my kids’ academic achievement.

    In addition to the ridiculous cost of the test and the non-nationally-normed test results, my daughters’ high school is closed to all, except testing students, 11 hours each year for testing (this is down from previous years because they shortened the tests). In addition, if students don’t finish a section of testing in the allotted time, they can move to a central location in the school and continue testing which results in them missing class.

    As a graduation requirement in Washington State, students are required to complete a culminating project which is usually done outside of class (they spend about 50 hours on the project). The high school is closed for two days each year (12 hours) for the Culminating Project presentations.

    One last Washington graduation requirement is the completion of the high school and beyond plan. Students work on those for 4 hours each year.

    My kids miss 27 hours of school each year because of education policy that honestly does NOTHING to improve their education. That equals 108 hours for their entire time in high school or 18 days of actual educational content that they could be learning.

    I apologize for my bitterness but I’ve had it with everyone profiting at the expense of students and it seems that Duncan’s policies and programs are doing a great job of siphoning education dollars away from students and into the hands of big business. I’m appalled that he would think teachers have anything to do with the state of education today.

  3. As a parent, I want to stop having my child be a cog in the testing machinery! it’s bad enough for my child to feel their test determines the grade of their school, but now they determine the ability of their teacher to get a bonus ( in Florida…due to Race to the Top pressure) and now their test grade will grade the education school of their teacher!? This is insanity. Instead of throwing money into test company wallets, how about buying more paper and science supplies for my son’s classroom, and rewarding creative thinkers who can teach children to write without following a formula? How about the ever-disappearing field trip or hands on approach? Children from poor families don’t go to museums and it’s our duty as a nation to expose them to culture, nature and science. Those are the things that inspired my children to learn. We are completely losing sight of what real learning is all about, and the unique qualities that other countries don’t get from their education.

  4. By whose right does Wendy Kopp become the go-to expert when there is such silence around substantive expertise on critical educational issues…really– are policy makers in ED so ahistorical that they forget the substanbtive work of John Goodlad, Ted Sizer, the shadow Secretary of Education Linda Darling Hammond–Wendy Kopp is after federal money while poor children are marginalized by competion programs such as Race for the Top—shame on the ED leadership! Once again poor kids get hammered.

  5. Of course we want teacher education programs to prepare effective teachers, but effective teachers do more than just teach math and language arts. Sometimes good teachers teach science, the arts, and critical thinking in spite of the standardized tests. Just because standardized tests are simple to calculate doesn’t mean they are a good measure of quality learning and teaching. Teacher prep programs would welcome accountability that treats teachers like professionals.

  6. Decisions about teachers, students, and public education should not be made by anyone who has less than 10 years of classroom teaching experience. Far too many of the individuals making educational policy these days are those who have no firsthand experience whatsoever in the profession. How can someone who isn’t qualified to be hired by most school districts—let alone rate as “highly qualified”—be given the power to make decisions that affect thousands of students and teachers nationwide?

    Stop trying to run the educational system like a business. From what I can see, the only difference it is making is that the cartoon Dilbert is now just as relevant to the professional lives of teachers as it is to cubicle rats.

    Finally, data and statistics are fine for analyzing inanimate objects, but last time I checked, my students were living, breathing human beings. Stop treating them like things.

  7. I see a system where students more and more are expected to supply (pre-determined) answers and never taught how to ask good questions.

  8. Please improve all teacher prep programs. The one I attended was absolutely horrible, but please don’t use test scores to judge these programs. I have become a ‘highly effective; teacher, but NOT because of the prep program I attended. I learned everything I know from my colleagues. Using test scores to judge teacher prep does not acknowledge where teachers really get their instructional knowledge.

    • Kathleen, was it easy for you to get support from your colleagues? I keep hearing that teachers have so much to do and so many requirements to fulfill that they don’t have time for collaboration.

  9. Is anyone aware of a developed theory and/or quantitative model (i.e., HLM) for the potential contribution of operational characteristics of teacher preparation programs to future student test scores (over time)? There are, of course, multiple factors that modulate student scores, and do so differentially in multiple conditions (school, classroom(s), home, community…). Its like asking how the HVAC system in your home contributes to the local weather three years hence! How much variability in students’ scores is teacher ed. even *expected* to predict? I have yet to see this. Without a predictive model, isn’t ED excessively optimistic about the application of policy when they have not even established how to reliably detect this very tiny signal embedded in a great volume of noise?

  10. I cannot even begin to state how problematic it is to relate student test scores back to teachers and their schools of education. So many variables exist in that chain of reasoning that any such move would be both invalid and unreliable from any research methodological perspective.

    • Accountability measures in the form of tests and data reporting are thought by some to be a panacea for eliminating the achievement gap between affluent and poor, white and students of color, and keeping the United States competitive in the global market place. However, others charge this approach to school improvement with being one of the greatest threats to academic freedom and, ultimately, American democracy to date. I am inclined to agree with the later. Proponents believe that high performance standards for students, monitored by high-stakes assessments, will motivate teachers to improve their instructional practices and produce improved student outcomes. These proponents use microeconomics to distinguish the costs and benefits of standards-based, high-stakes testing policies. They hold that “microeconomic analysis describes how rational actors respond to incentives, and may offer some insight” (into education improvement). They describe a system by which students, parents, teachers, and administrators performing under a standards-based system will alter their behavior in order to be classified as winners and avoid being classified as losers, behavior they insist will advance learning. They maintain that students, teachers and other stakeholders will reevaluate the costs and benefits of student effort. Representing business leaders such as the National Alliance of Business and the Business Round Table, proponents delineate the reasons why business backs standards and accountability. They assert that tests encourage performance and that standards yield accountability.
      However, many researchers to date maintain that the there is little convincing evidence that high-stakes testing policies improve student performance or that paper and pencil tests assessments can be used reliably to evaluate teacher performance or student learning. In fact, in their state-by-state analysis of changes in student achievement after the implementation of high-stakes tests and high school graduation exams, they report that no consistent effects were noted.

      Standards-based, high stakes testing and accountability measures have been in place since the publication of “A Nation at Risk” in the 1980’s. Where is the evidence that this approach is working? The standardization of teaching and learning lead to a narrowing or reductionist approach to the complex challenge of teaching and learning. Instead of improving students’ abilities to critically evaluate the policies of the legislators in this country, gather and weigh evidence and engage meaningfully as informed citizens in this country, we are creating a persuaded and passive populace. This kind of legislation leads education stakeholders to compliance not leadership.

      Lets work on trying to understand the relationship between poverty and low test scores, low test scores and lower property values, lower property values and lower taxes, lower taxes and lower revenue for schools. Doesn’t this seem like a more fruitful place to start to understand student performance?

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