Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teacher Training under the Gun New 'Report Card' Could Affect Funds

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teacher Training under the Gun New 'Report Card' Could Affect Funds

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Some of Georgia's teacher training programs could lose federal funding, including money for student aid, if they perform poorly on a new federal report card still being hammered out by education leaders from across the state.

Georgia must turn in a set of criteria to evaluate every school of education by Oct. 7, and though many standards are prescribed by federal law, states can decide on a few elements. Those behind the decisions for Georgia said the task is daunting and they worry schools of education will be unfairly punished for poor performance.

"No institution wants to be listed as low-performing," said F.D. Toth, executive secretary of the Professional Standards Commission. "It is very possible schools of education are going to be unfairly blamed for the poor performance of new teachers, but they aren't the ones responsible for teaching new teachers subject content."

The report card requires Georgia to create a definition of a low-performing school of education, which might include students' scores on the statewide teacher competency test, known as the PRAXIS. Scholastic Assessment Test results and whether a school has full accreditation could also be considered.

The state must also decide how it will identify schools of education at risk of falling below acceptable performance levels.

The report card, created by the Higher Education Act passed in 1998, evaluates a school's teacher certification and licensing requirements, the number of teachers granted waivers for state certification requirements and information about testing prospective teachers' competency.

The commission has enlisted seven people, including deans of schools of education, to create drafts of the definitions. The guidelines will be reviewed by teacher training program officials across the state and approved by the Professional Standards Commission before being turned in to the U.S. Department of Education.

"It is a very difficult thing to define," said Fran Watkins, coordinator of Georgia's compliance with the new federal reporting system. "There is a lot riding on the way these things will be spelled out."

Toth said the federal report card puts the burden of ensuring teacher quality on the schools of education, which are responsible for imparting instructional techniques to future teachers -- not the content to be taught in the classroom. …

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