The Department of Education wants to enforce some quality control on how teachers become teachers and has proposed new rules to make states monitor the effectiveness of teacher training programs as a condition of getting federal education grants.
“This is nothing short of a moral issue," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a conference call, the New York Times reported. "All educators want to do a great job for their students, but too often they struggle at the beginning of their careers and have to figure out too much on the job by themselves.”
"The rating systems, which would need approval by the Education Department, would for the first time consider how teacher candidates perform after graduation," The Washington Post reports, "whether they land jobs in their subject field, how long they stay and how their students perform on standardized tests and other measures of academic achievement."
U.S. teachers have long lagged behind some of their counterparts. "A 2007 McKinsey study found that 23 percent of U.S. teachers graduated in the top third of their class, while 100 percent of teachers in Singapore, Finland and other nations whose students lead the world on international exams finished near the top of their classes," The Washington Post noted.
The proposal is already meeting resistance from teachers and teachers' unions, which argue that such measurements will always offer a distorted picture of what quality teaching means.
Jeanne Williams, chair of the Educational Studies department at Ripon College, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the proposed evaluation methods are "not valid or reliable because of the numerous intervening variables that can affect student performance," such as poverty, school climate and rates of teacher turnover in a school.
Not everyone is opposed to the proposal, however.
“I think you need to wake up the university presidents to the fact that schools of education can’t be ATMs for the rest of the college or university,” Charles Barone, policy director for Democrats for Education Reform, told the New York Times. DER is a staunch advocate of enhancing accountability and reining in teachers unions.