Government to further assess state schools

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The U.S. Department of Education has introduced new tentative regulations that would require state schools to report to the federal government not only how students performed on standardized tests, but also where their teachers acquired their degrees.

“We encourage multiple measures for evaluating teachers,” said Sara Gast, spokeswoman for the Department of Education. “Test scores can be one component among a variety of items, including feedback from students, parents and principals; classroom observations and student growth and gains.”

According to “Our Future, Our Teachers,” a September report from the Department of Education, “weak [education] programs set minimal standards for entry and graduation.”
After states submit the student’s grades, the department would evaluate colleges based on how well the students of the schools’ graduates performed.

“Overall, we want to focus on outcomes from schools of education to make sure that they are readying and supporting teachers as they enter the classroom,” Gast said. “And we want to provide states with more data to see which teacher prep programs are doing a good job of preparing educators and where improvement is needed.”

UT’s College of Education is second in U.S. News and World Report’s yearly performance ranking. U.S. News and World Report said the College of Education was ranked so high because the college spends “among the highest amounts” on education research and there are many opportunities for students to get involved in organizations on campus.

“We’ve never been afraid of assessment,” said associate dean of education Sherry Field. “In fact we have always welcomed assessment — self assessment, which we do regularly, and outside assessment.”

Half of teacher candidates received practice in the classroom before graduation, according to the report.

“The quality of teacher preparation programs varies widely,” Field said. “We not only have high academic standards, but we also provide hundreds of hours of practice in the field. We go above and beyond the state requirement.”

Pre-service special education teachers at UT are required to complete 1,600 hours in the field before graduation. Elementary school pre-service teachers have to complete 900 hours.
“There are too many variables to hold colleges, or even teachers, accountable for how students perform on standardized tests,” said education ducation professor Louis Harrison.
Only 23 percent of teachers graduate in the top third of their class, according to “Our Future, Our Teachers.”

“There’s no industry in the U.S. that doesn’t have problems,” Harrison said. “One of the problems is that we have unequal access to education. Underperforming schools tend to get an overabundance of less experienced teachers, which kind of perpetuates their problem.”

Printed on October 4, 2011, as: Alma mater factored into assessment of state teachers