Government vs. teacher-training programs

Public school teachers and academics in the universities are among the Democratic party’s most loyal footsoldiers, advocating government intervention in a whole host of endeavors.  But they don’t like it much when the government intervenes with them.

And yet here is a case where government intervention might well be a good thing:  Tying federal (that is to say, taxpayer) money to the performance of teacher education programs (that is to say, the effectiveness of the teachers they turn out).   This currently would relate only to one smallish federal program, one that gives grants to graduates willing to teach in “high need” areas.   Needless to say, this is spurring outraged opposition from schools of education, which seem to have pulled the teeth from the original proposal:

Teacher colleges and their accreditors pushed back against a Department of Education plan to tighten eligibility for federal Teach Grants this week, winning concessions on a proposed rule that could have ended aid to hundreds of colleges and set a precedent for other federal programs.

Under the department’s original proposal, states would have been required to sort teacher-education programs into four categories—”low-performing,” “at risk,” “satisfactory,” and “high quality”—based on their graduates’ job-placement and retention rates, the academic “growth” of graduates’ future students, and customer-satisfaction surveys. Only programs that received the highest ranking and were approved by a specialized accreditor would have been eligible to award the grants, which provide up to $4,000 a year to students who agree to work in “high-need areas.”

Sophia McArdle, the department’s representative on a panel that is negotiating the teacher-training rules, said the agency’s goal was to set a “minimum bar” for Teach Grant eligibility. (While federal law limits Teach Grants to “high quality” programs, it doesn’t define the term. In the past, department officials have claimed that the grants go to too many “mediocre” programs.)

But negotiators said the bar was being set too high, and would deny aid to all but “the crème de la crème,” as one panel member put it. They maintained that it was unfair to exclude the hundreds of programs that lack specialized accreditation, or the potentially hundreds more that might fall under the new “satisfactory” category. They argued that the grants should go to students attending programs deemed “effective” or higher, regardless of their accreditation status, and the department agreed.

Under the compromise language, programs lacking specialized accreditation would be judged based on whether they provided graduates with “content and pedagogical knowledge” and “quality clinical preparation” and had “performance based” exit requirements.

Even more significantly, panelists succeeded in striking any reference to “high quality” from the state rating system, replacing it with “exceptional.” That seemingly semantic change ensured that the “high quality” definition wouldn’t outlive Teach Grants, and be used to limit aid under other federal programs. President Obama has proposed ending the Teach Grant program and replacing it with a “Presidential Teaching Fellows” program that would provide scholarships to high-achieving students.

Even with the changes, the new rules still represent a significant expansion of the federal involvement in teacher-training programs. Until now, the government has largely stayed out of teacher prep, leaving it to states to set their own standards for judging and penalizing programs. The proposed rules, with their outcome standards and survey requirements, mark a “much more rigorous and intrusive federal role,” said Jane West, senior vice president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

via Teacher-Training Programs Win Concessions on Proposed Federal Rule – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Many of these government interventions are simply efforts to provide accountability for taxpayer dollars.  That, I think, is a legitimate concern for Congress and ought not to be confused with the bigger issue of government attempts to regulate our lives.

HT:  Jackie

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Steve Billingsley

    More dollars with no accountability. These five words describe the goals of teachers unions at basically every turn.

    Describe any problem, real or perceived in public education, and the answer will be “give us more money”. Add any sort of accountability that most of us live with in our every day jobs and listen to the howls of protest. It is utterly predictable.

  • Steve Billingsley

    More dollars with no accountability. These five words describe the goals of teachers unions at basically every turn.

    Describe any problem, real or perceived in public education, and the answer will be “give us more money”. Add any sort of accountability that most of us live with in our every day jobs and listen to the howls of protest. It is utterly predictable.

  • Joe

    “Many of these government interventions are simply efforts to provide accountability for taxpayer dollars”

    And, we accept this rational without asking why federal tax dollars are involved in the first place. I dislike this attempt to federalize education just as much as the idea of a federalized standard curriculum that we discuss the other day.

  • Joe

    “Many of these government interventions are simply efforts to provide accountability for taxpayer dollars”

    And, we accept this rational without asking why federal tax dollars are involved in the first place. I dislike this attempt to federalize education just as much as the idea of a federalized standard curriculum that we discuss the other day.

  • Robin

    I am a teacher and I can say that the worst mistake ever was allowing the federal government to be so heavily involved. However, even if some teachers are paid more to perform you may find that those teachers falsify things in order to appear that they have done better than they actually have. Also, it isn’t that difficult to pass most of these standardized tests. In Tennessee, 10th grades were taking tests that were based on 7th or 8th grade proficiency. Make no mistake, federal or not it is all rigged. Currently, Tennessee is part of a program called “race to the top” which is something Obama implemented. Teachers are evaluated and schools are given scores based upon certain criteria. The scores range from 1-5. I personally know several teachers that would fall into the category of “old school” who are making 1 and 2′s. Teacher who do trendy things like group work are making 4′s and 5′s. Also, you should look into something that the federal government has implemented called AYP. Annual Yearly Progress. Students are placed in sub groups based upon ethnicities/ability and each subgroup has to have a majority pass not just the entire school. I currently teach in Alabama and my school didn’t make AYP. Do you know why? Because we had too many children that qualified for Special Ed. Those children had their own sub group and they couldn’t pass the standardized tests. This is one teacher who would take less pay to get these people OUT of the education system. Teachers want their cake and eat it to and it just doesn’t work out like that. Teachers are going to finally have to wake up and either have less monetary value to their profession but actually have curriculum that makes sense for their states or sale their soul to fed. govt so they can make a few thousand more a year. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Robin

    I am a teacher and I can say that the worst mistake ever was allowing the federal government to be so heavily involved. However, even if some teachers are paid more to perform you may find that those teachers falsify things in order to appear that they have done better than they actually have. Also, it isn’t that difficult to pass most of these standardized tests. In Tennessee, 10th grades were taking tests that were based on 7th or 8th grade proficiency. Make no mistake, federal or not it is all rigged. Currently, Tennessee is part of a program called “race to the top” which is something Obama implemented. Teachers are evaluated and schools are given scores based upon certain criteria. The scores range from 1-5. I personally know several teachers that would fall into the category of “old school” who are making 1 and 2′s. Teacher who do trendy things like group work are making 4′s and 5′s. Also, you should look into something that the federal government has implemented called AYP. Annual Yearly Progress. Students are placed in sub groups based upon ethnicities/ability and each subgroup has to have a majority pass not just the entire school. I currently teach in Alabama and my school didn’t make AYP. Do you know why? Because we had too many children that qualified for Special Ed. Those children had their own sub group and they couldn’t pass the standardized tests. This is one teacher who would take less pay to get these people OUT of the education system. Teachers want their cake and eat it to and it just doesn’t work out like that. Teachers are going to finally have to wake up and either have less monetary value to their profession but actually have curriculum that makes sense for their states or sale their soul to fed. govt so they can make a few thousand more a year. You can’t have it both ways.

  • rlewer

    If there is a way to mess things up, the federal government will find it.

    The art and science of teaching is beyond rules and regulations and categories. If the school has not become too big, the principal and parents will know who the good teachers are by the results even though those results are hard to quantify by tests.

  • rlewer

    If there is a way to mess things up, the federal government will find it.

    The art and science of teaching is beyond rules and regulations and categories. If the school has not become too big, the principal and parents will know who the good teachers are by the results even though those results are hard to quantify by tests.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    In stats class we looked at data indicating that if 5%-8% of bad teachers were eliminated, America would score in the top 5% world-wide in math and science. It was an interesting exercise.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    In stats class we looked at data indicating that if 5%-8% of bad teachers were eliminated, America would score in the top 5% world-wide in math and science. It was an interesting exercise.

  • JunkerGeorg

    Oooh, another federal program, to rectify a different federal program that isn’t working. I hear the echo of Herman Cain, “Just fix it.” But no surprise, given that we don’t heed the 10th Amendment in terms of what the Federal Government has the power to be involved in determining for our lives (e.g., education.) Instead of asking, “What can the Federal Government do for us?”, it would be nice to hear people begin asking, “What right does the Federal Government have to be involved at all?”

  • JunkerGeorg

    Oooh, another federal program, to rectify a different federal program that isn’t working. I hear the echo of Herman Cain, “Just fix it.” But no surprise, given that we don’t heed the 10th Amendment in terms of what the Federal Government has the power to be involved in determining for our lives (e.g., education.) Instead of asking, “What can the Federal Government do for us?”, it would be nice to hear people begin asking, “What right does the Federal Government have to be involved at all?”

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    It would be interesting to compare the success of graduates of teachers who were educated in Christian colleges to the success of students who were educated by teachers who were educated in secular schools.

    Of course many of those teachers also teach in private Christian schools, so we can probably guess the answer before collect the data.

    Private school students generally do better and it isn’t just because of the teachers. Student performance is mostly driven by the student and his parents. Student performance is just not a reasonable metric by which to judge teachers. Good teachers who get good performance evaluations generally use those good performance ratings to get jobs teaching better students, not students who are low performing or in low performing schools.

    http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1017&context=c_kirabo_jackson

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    It would be interesting to compare the success of graduates of teachers who were educated in Christian colleges to the success of students who were educated by teachers who were educated in secular schools.

    Of course many of those teachers also teach in private Christian schools, so we can probably guess the answer before collect the data.

    Private school students generally do better and it isn’t just because of the teachers. Student performance is mostly driven by the student and his parents. Student performance is just not a reasonable metric by which to judge teachers. Good teachers who get good performance evaluations generally use those good performance ratings to get jobs teaching better students, not students who are low performing or in low performing schools.

    http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1017&context=c_kirabo_jackson

  • kerner

    The trouble with this whole debate, and atempts to fix it, is that “merit” on both the level of the individual teacher and each school system as a whole is almost impossible to quantify.

    In a school system populated by mostly dysfunctional students from dysfunctional families, student performance is going to be worse than that of a school system populated with motivated students from cohesive motivated families. The cohesive motivated families tend to self segrigate into school systems, which they then declare “good”, leaving behind the systems whose student populations (increasingly deprived of the fleeing motivated students) become increasingly “bad”. There is little reason to believe that the quality of the faculty is the only, or even the primary, factor in the performance of the students. The character and degree of motivation of their parents, the students themselves, and even their peers have at least as much, and probably more, to do with how a student performs.

    This is not a knock on the vocation of teaching, but there is a limit to how many silk purses can be expected to emerge from a classroom full of sow’s ears.

    On the other hand, exceptionally good and dedicated teachers have gotten unexpectedly good results. Jaime Escalante, successfully taught AP Calculus to unexpectedly high numbers of poor hispanic students in the Los Angeles public schools for years, and those unexpectedly high numbers dropped off when he left the school where he worked. Which may mean only that identifying and motivating those students who can perform at higher levels is a big part of successful teaching. But it can also mean that at least part of poor performance is the unwillingnness or inability of teachers to make the effort necessary to indentify the students’ talents and cultivate them.

    This gets me to the point of seeming to be arguing against myself. But I really think that it just proves how difficult a problem this is for any government program to solve.

    Robin is right. The opportunities to “rig” the results of the standards imposed must me almost infinite.

  • kerner

    The trouble with this whole debate, and atempts to fix it, is that “merit” on both the level of the individual teacher and each school system as a whole is almost impossible to quantify.

    In a school system populated by mostly dysfunctional students from dysfunctional families, student performance is going to be worse than that of a school system populated with motivated students from cohesive motivated families. The cohesive motivated families tend to self segrigate into school systems, which they then declare “good”, leaving behind the systems whose student populations (increasingly deprived of the fleeing motivated students) become increasingly “bad”. There is little reason to believe that the quality of the faculty is the only, or even the primary, factor in the performance of the students. The character and degree of motivation of their parents, the students themselves, and even their peers have at least as much, and probably more, to do with how a student performs.

    This is not a knock on the vocation of teaching, but there is a limit to how many silk purses can be expected to emerge from a classroom full of sow’s ears.

    On the other hand, exceptionally good and dedicated teachers have gotten unexpectedly good results. Jaime Escalante, successfully taught AP Calculus to unexpectedly high numbers of poor hispanic students in the Los Angeles public schools for years, and those unexpectedly high numbers dropped off when he left the school where he worked. Which may mean only that identifying and motivating those students who can perform at higher levels is a big part of successful teaching. But it can also mean that at least part of poor performance is the unwillingnness or inability of teachers to make the effort necessary to indentify the students’ talents and cultivate them.

    This gets me to the point of seeming to be arguing against myself. But I really think that it just proves how difficult a problem this is for any government program to solve.

    Robin is right. The opportunities to “rig” the results of the standards imposed must me almost infinite.

  • kerner

    Oh. I see that sg beat me to saying part of what I just said. Well, I agree with her.

  • kerner

    Oh. I see that sg beat me to saying part of what I just said. Well, I agree with her.

  • DonS

    The root issue is the inappropriate existence of federal programs to subsidize public education. There is no way to design another program to effectively monitor the success of teacher training programs, because it is largely a subjective exercise. My fear would be that the metrics would involve things like “diversity training” and such p.c. nonsense rather than say, um, reading and writing and math.

    Since there is no way to cut this aid off cold turkey, without a riot, the federal education bureaucracy should be dismantled, and the current aid money reduced by an immediate 20% and distributed on a per capita basis as unrestricted block grants to the states. Each year another 20% reduction in these block grants should be imposed until they are eliminated.

  • DonS

    The root issue is the inappropriate existence of federal programs to subsidize public education. There is no way to design another program to effectively monitor the success of teacher training programs, because it is largely a subjective exercise. My fear would be that the metrics would involve things like “diversity training” and such p.c. nonsense rather than say, um, reading and writing and math.

    Since there is no way to cut this aid off cold turkey, without a riot, the federal education bureaucracy should be dismantled, and the current aid money reduced by an immediate 20% and distributed on a per capita basis as unrestricted block grants to the states. Each year another 20% reduction in these block grants should be imposed until they are eliminated.

  • rlewer

    Last fall walking in Washington, D.C we walked by the monstrous buildings that house just part of the Department of Education. This houses a huge number of employees none of whom are teaching any children but are mostly burdening the ones who are trying to teach children with piles of paperwork.

  • rlewer

    Last fall walking in Washington, D.C we walked by the monstrous buildings that house just part of the Department of Education. This houses a huge number of employees none of whom are teaching any children but are mostly burdening the ones who are trying to teach children with piles of paperwork.

  • P.C.

    The best use of the monstrous Department of Education building in Washington, D.C. that rlewer @ 11 describes above would be best used as a Super Walmart.

  • P.C.

    The best use of the monstrous Department of Education building in Washington, D.C. that rlewer @ 11 describes above would be best used as a Super Walmart.

  • Spaulding

    @7 Assuming the public schools even hire graduates of a so called “Christian” or private college (most of the Christian colleges in my area are christian in name only). In the area I live 95-98% of the teachers either went to the flagship state university, the state land grant schools or the state schools of states that have tuition reciprocity. I have seen virtually zero teachers from any of the private or Christian schools (I fall in the latter category and am subbing). I have suspicions of why but am not going to say in a public forum.

  • Spaulding

    @7 Assuming the public schools even hire graduates of a so called “Christian” or private college (most of the Christian colleges in my area are christian in name only). In the area I live 95-98% of the teachers either went to the flagship state university, the state land grant schools or the state schools of states that have tuition reciprocity. I have seen virtually zero teachers from any of the private or Christian schools (I fall in the latter category and am subbing). I have suspicions of why but am not going to say in a public forum.

  • formerly just steve

    rlewer, #11, It’s one of many federal Departments of Self-Preservation. And each one of those people will, at some point, receive an extremely generous pension at your and my expense. Ain’t America grand?

  • formerly just steve

    rlewer, #11, It’s one of many federal Departments of Self-Preservation. And each one of those people will, at some point, receive an extremely generous pension at your and my expense. Ain’t America grand?


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