Teacher preparation regulations need to earn a better grade
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The intention of the U.S. Department of Education’s “final rule” on regulations for teacher preparation programs is honorable. Its underlying goal is to improve accountability of collegiate programs for new teachers. What is missing, though, are some common-sense elements that may affect this vital professional field.

The guidelines as released in 2016 fail to account for changing demographics in both K-12 students and current teachers, the decline in the number of students majoring in the K-12 teaching field, and the exodus of current teachers for new career paths.  

The proposed rating system imposes a one-size-fits-all approach onto 50 state education systems and a wide range of different institutions of higher education, ranging from smaller colleges to the largest research institutions. 

In all, more than 27,000 teacher preparation programs will need to adjust in order to comply with the new federal regulations.


The ratings, as proposed, dictate indicators for student learning outcomes, employment and retention of program graduates, teacher and employer survey outcomes, and accreditation or state approval. A federal report card would include the outcomes and be posted on each individual college’s website.


Further, the regulations appear to address challenges in K-12 by changing policy at the level of higher education – a dubious practice. 

Further, the cost of implementation rests solely on higher education, again adding yet another unfunded federal mandate that will increase the tuition price. At the state level, the additional costs are likely to equal higher taxes. The new rating system seems to be an overreach.

Most troubling, in my opinion, is the linking of federal financial aid in the form of the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH) to the rating obtained by each teacher preparation program. 

The TEACH grant program is a positive attraction for students, as it offers $4,000 per year in exchange for service in a high-need school or high-need field.

Under new U.S. Department of Education regulations, a teacher education program would not be eligible to accept students using TEACH grants if the academic program was rated as “ineffective’’ in two out of three years.

Students from low- and middle-income families already have plenty of challenges in paying for college.

Removing or restricting access to yet another form of federal financial aid will likely translate into even lower enrollments in teacher education programs, particularly in urban and rural areas. In the end, those areas in the country that face the greatest challenges in attracting new teachers to their school districts will find the supply of candidates further diminished.

The proposed requirements are undergoing a federal review. It is my hope Congress – after rejecting the regulations – will return the “final rule’’ to the U.S. Department of Education to be crafted into a positive program that supports better outcomes and access for all. 

Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D., is president of Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., the oldest four-year institution of higher education in Luzerne County. Misericordia University ranks in the top tier of the Best Regional Universities – North category of U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 edition of Best Colleges and was designated a 2017 Best Northeastern College by the Princeton Review.

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