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Obama officials developing teacher training rating system

The Obama administration announced Friday that it was developing ratings of teacher preparation programs to make them more accountable for their graduates’ classroom performance.

Teacher training programs have frequently come under attack as ill-conceived or mediocre, and teachers themselves have often complained that such programs do not adequately prepare them to handle children with varying needs and abilities.

“We have about 1,400 schools of education and hundreds and hundreds of alternative certification paths, and nobody in this country can tell anybody which one is more effective than the other,” Arne Duncan, the education secretary, said at a town hall meeting at Dunbar High School in Washington on Friday.


“Often the vast majority of schools, when I talk to teachers, and have very candid conversations, they feel they weren’t well prepared,” Duncan said.

By this summer, the administration will propose rules for evaluating all teacher training programs, using metrics that could include the number of graduates placed in schools, as well as pass rates on licensing exams, teacher retention rates, and job performance ratings.

A 2013 review of 2,420 teacher preparation programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit group that advocates tougher standards for teachers, found that less than a quarter provided concrete strategies for managing students in a classroom. Most of them failed to guarantee that teacher candidates would be placed with highly skilled teachers during student-teaching stints.

Any proposals by the administration are likely to stir debate, particularly a requirement that training programs release the evaluation data of their graduates’ performance in the classroom. Currently, 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have agreed with the Department of Education to develop teacher performance ratings that include student test scores.

Some education experts say that such ratings are not reliable and that it would be difficult to grade teacher training programs using standardized test scores.


“This is about a policy that seeks to rate institutions on something that we just cannot feasibly link them to in terms of responsibility,” said Bruce D. Baker, a professor of education at Rutgers University.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest teachers union, said she supported improvements in teacher training programs. But, she said, the administration should not carry out “a quick-fix, test-and-punish, market-based ranking of programs.”

On Friday, Duncan said teacher preparation should become more like medical training. But educators warned that measurements could create the wrong incentives. Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, said that if medical schools, for example, were judged by the patient mortality rates of the doctors they trained, schools would never train doctors to treat the sickest patients.