Teacher prep programs face more scrutiny to win ISBE recognition

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By the end of this decade, teacher and principal preparation programs
could be judged in part by how well their graduates do in raising the
standardized test scores of their students. The state is seeking public
comment on a new set of rules for state recognition of programs, and one
of them would link students’ test scores to the universities their
teachers and principals attended.

By the end of this decade, teacher and principal preparation programs could be judged in part by how well their graduates do in raising the standardized test scores of their students. The state is seeking public comment on a new set of rules for state recognition of programs, and one of them would link students’ test scores to the universities their teachers and principals attended.

Under the proposed rules, which are detailed in the agenda packet for ISBE’s September meeting, new teacher and principal evaluations that the state is requiring must factor in student test scores, and those evaluations would then be linked to the preparation programs. But the change would not take place until 2018 for teachers and 2014 for principals, as the new evaluations are implemented and schools figure out how to track them.

 Student test scores would be just one factor that could play into a decision to place a preparation program on probation or, eventally deny it state recognition. 

Jan Fitzsimmons, director of the Center for Success in High-Need Schools, which supports preparation programs in the colleges belonging to the Associated Colleges of Illinois, says the proposed connection likely will face opposition.

“My hope is that they wouldn’t define it only in terms of student achievement test scores,” as the legislation about teacher evaluations has, she says. “There are too many factors that come to bear in determining how the student arrived at that score on that day that might not make it a reliable indicator.”

Even so, she says, colleges are looking forward to getting more data from the state about how the candidates they prepare are doing in the field, including teacher observation data.

The proposed rules also would change the way teacher preparation programs are recognized. The state no longer uses the word “accredited,” since new rules allow organizations such as Teach for America to be recognized on their own rather than having to partner with accredited universities. Programs will be reviewed every four years, instead of every seven. Programs will submit a written report and appear before the state board. State officials will visit schools only if they think it is necessary.

Another change is that programs will be expected to have 80 percent of teacher candidates pass content area exams in the subjects they teach, in addition to the more general certification exam. This is a way to encourage teacher prep programs to focus more on getting teachers ready to teach specific subjects.

ISBE and state legislators will likely make the rules final after a 45-day public comment period.

The tougher standards come less than a year after the state began requiring annual written reports from every program.

Out of 60 institutions that submitted reports this spring, the board has asked about 13 for more information, says Linda Tomlinson, assistant superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education.