President Obama speaks as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan looks on during a ceremony to honor the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. Obama on Friday called on the Education Department to come up with a plan to improve the government's understanding of what teacher preparation programs are working. / JEWEL SAMAD AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON -- President Obama is calling on the Education Department to come up with a plan to overhaul how teacher preparation programs are evaluated.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Obama wants his department to come up with the outlines of a plan by this summer that builds off of successful reporting efforts that are already being used in several states.
Under Obama's timeline, the Education Department will issue new regulations this summer, which will then be open to public comment, before issuing a final rule within the next year.
"At virtually every school I go to, I ask teachers, were they prepared when they entered that school or entered the profession," Duncan said in a call with reporters to preview the president's directive, to be unveiled Friday. "There is often a fair amount of nervous laughter â?¦ and sadly, it's often a majority of teachers that say they weren't prepared."
The administration contends there is too little data to evaluate how teacher preparation programs are preparing teachers for the classroom. Duncan said basic information -such as satisfaction rate of alumni and satisfaction of principals with teachers coming from particular programs - is unavailable.
"Today, unfortunately, we get little or no information of how their graduates are doing once they enter the teaching profession," Duncan said. "That is simply unacceptable and must change."
Several states have implemented programs for tracking teacher preparation that could prove to be models for the rest of the country, Duncan said.
Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee report information about teacher preparation programs and their graduates back to the programs as well as to potential teachers and the public, according to the White House.
Duncan also pointed to existing programs, such as UTeach at the University of Texas at Austin, as a model for other states to look to for drawing highly sought STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) majors to the classroom. Ninety percent of UTeach graduates enter teaching and of those, roughly 80% are retained after five years.
The focus on teacher preparation is nothing new for Obama. In his first term, he pushed unsuccessfully for Congress to approve spending for math and science teacher preparation programs.
With this latest effort, Duncan said the administration is also considering tying reforms to states' teacher preparation programs in order for the states to be eligible for TEACH grants, a federal program that is available to students who are planning to become teachers in a high-need field in a low-income school.
"This will simply be a draft, and we look forward to very significant public feedback," Duncan said. "We want to have a national conversation."
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