Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Teacher Education

Laura Chapman: ESSA and the Degradation of Teacher Preparation

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Laura Chapman, retired arts consultant, predicts that the new “Every Student Succeeds Act” is a blow against professional teacher preparation. It offers carte blanche to the new institutions created by entrepreneurs and charter operators. She posted the following comment:

The biggest player in making teacher preparation an “anything goes” job is our US Congress with the passage of ESSA.


ESSA marginalizes higher education’s role in teacher preparation. Scholarship is not required to prepare teachers or to be a teachers, or principal, or other school leader. All you need to do is be a producer of test scores as measures of “academic” achievement. All you have to do is let our governors expand the charter industry to teacher education by setting up an “authorizing entity” to approve “teacher preparation academies” for prospective Teachers, Principals, and other School Leaders.

Here are a couple of sections of ESSA that show the perverse incentives for awarding a master’s degree in a chartered
TEACHER , PRINCIPAL , OR OTHER SCHOOL LEADER PREPARATION ACADEMY .—The term ‘teacher, principal, or other school leader preparation academy’ means a public or other nonprofit entity, which may be an institution of higher education or an organization affiliated with an institution of higher education, that establishes an academy that will prepare teachers, principals, or other school leaders to serve in highneeds schools (not defined) and that—
(A) enters into an agreement with a State authorizer that specifies the goals expected of the academy, including—

‘‘(i) a requirement that prospective teachers, principals, or other school leaders who are enrolled in the academy receive a significant part of their training through clinical preparation that partners the prospective candidate with an effective teacher, principal, or other school leader, as determined by the State, respectively, with a demonstrated record of increasing student academic achievement, including for the subgroups of students…, while also receiving concurrent instruction from the academy in the content area (or areas) in which the prospective teacher, principal, or other school leader will become certified or licensed that links to the clinical preparation experience; ‘‘

(ii) the number of effective teachers, principals, or other school leaders, respectively, who will demonstrate success in increasing student academic achievement that the academy will prepare; and ‘‘

(iii) a requirement that the academy will award a certificate of completion (or degree, if the academy is affiliated with, an institution of higher education) to a teacher only after the teacher demonstrates that the teacher is an effective teacher, as determined by the State, with a demonstrated record of increasing student academic achievement either as a student teacher or teacher-of-record on an alternative certificate, license, or credential; ‘‘
(iv) a requirement that the academy will award a certificate of completion (or degree, if the academy is affiliated with an institution of higher education) to a principal or other school leader only after the principal or other school leader demonstrates a record of success in improving student performance; and

(v) timelines for producing cohorts of graduates and conferring certificates of completion (or degrees, if the academy is affiliated with, an institution of higher education) from the academy; ‘‘

(B) does not have unnecessary restrictions on the methods the academy will use to train prospective teacher, principal, or other school leader candidates, including—
‘‘(i) obligating (or prohibiting) the academy’s faculty to hold advanced degrees or conduct academic research;
‘‘(ii) restrictions related to the academy’s physical infrastructure;
‘‘(iii) restrictions related to the number of course credits required as part of the program of study;
‘‘(iv) restrictions related to the undergraduate coursework completed by teachers teaching or working on alternative certificates, licenses, or credentials, as long as such teachers have successfully passed all relevant State-approved content area examinations; or
‘‘(v) restrictions related to obtaining accreditation from an accrediting body for purposes of becoming an academy; ‘‘

(C) limits admission to its program to prospective teacher, principal, or other school leader candidates who demonstrate strong potential to improve student academic achievement, based on a rigorous selection process that reviews a candidate’s prior academic achievement or record of professional accomplishment; and

(D) results in a certificate of completion or degree that the State may, after reviewing the academy’s results in producing effective teachers, or principals, or other school leaders, respectively (as determined by the State) recognize as at least the equivalent of a master’s degree in education for the purposes of hiring, retention, compensation, and promotion in the State.”

These specification appear to come from the training models offered by the recently formed “Coalition” of charter teacher prep academies and programs well-funded by foundations. These programs have token or no ties to higher education. Charter residency programs are operated primarily to offer a “pipeline of talent” for charter schools. The new “Coalition” is a functioning as a lobby to keep students’ academic test scores as the measure of effective teaching and teacher preparation programs funded by ESSA. The Coalition includes Urban Teachers, Aspire Public Schools, Blue Engine, Boston Teacher Residency, Match Teacher Residency, National Center for Teacher Residencies, Relay Graduate School of Education (a darling of Bill Gates), Teach for America, and TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project).

In ESSA, Congress has expressed absolute contempt for professional preparation of teachers. They approved a law that insists on… “no restrictions” on faculty academic qualifications, “no restrictions” on where academies exist, “no restrictions” on course credits (including undergraduate and academy programs), and freedom to operate with no accreditation “as long as such teachers have successfully passed all relevant State-approved content area examinations.”

The law is conspicuously tilted to support high scores on academic tests as the measure of “effectiveness.” Effectiveness is not formally defined but in ESSA it is used 150 times

(5) “TEACHER RESIDENCY PROGRAM —The term ‘teacher residency program’ means a school-based teacher preparation program in which a prospective teacher— ‘‘

(A) for not less than 1 academic year, teaches alongside an effective teacher, as determined by the State or local educational agency, who is the teacher of record for the classroom;

‘‘(B) receives concurrent instruction during the residency year

‘‘(i) through courses that may be taught by local educational agency personnel or by faculty of the teacher preparation program; and

‘‘(ii) in the teaching of the content area in which the teacher will become certified or licensed; and

(C) acquires effective teaching skills, as demonstrated through completion of a residency program, or other measure determined by the State, which may include a teacher performance assessment.

As I read Part 5, the teacher residency program is ambiguous. A teacher residency is typically a paid full-time co-teacher position, with the novice having full responsibility for classes well before the end of the school year, including securing proofs of their ability to increase the academic achievement (test scores) of their students. Meanwhile most residencies also require job-specific coursework (in addition to the full-time residency) that will justify earning a master’s degree. However, Part C seems to permit a direct path into teaching by taking a state approved performance assessment such as edPTA.

I can vouch for one thing about ESSA. It is a patched together law which deserves and F for clarity, wisdom, and sound investment of tax dollars.

Title II of ESSA calls for a four-year appropriation totaling $11,079,417,150. That is a huge investment, given the estimated demand per year for about 160,000 new teachers to take the place of teachers who will retire in the next four years.

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