Teacher tracking: Higher ed group worried about proposed legislation

Proposed federal legislation that would track teachers and the institutions that educate them after graduation has the New Hampshire Institutions of Higher Education Network concerned about its implications — specifically, that it’s too difficult to implement and that it will discourage teachers from working with special-needs populations for fear that there won’t be enough evidence to prove the teachers are making progress.

Dr. Dianna Gahlsdorf Terrell, secretary of the IHE Network and professor of education at Saint Anselm College, said that on a federal level, there is increasing interest in teacher progress and regulating teacher education programs.
“They are being looked at in terms of, ‘how do we control what they are doing more?’” Terrell said.
The proposed legislation is still being drafted. It would see training institutes like Saint Anselm track teachers after graduation and into the classrooms by examining how their students perform, Terrell said.
“We’re not … equipped with the resources like that to track our graduates in their own classrooms,” she said. “It’s statistically sort of shady, the further and further you get out.”
Terrell likened it to Harvard Medical School having to track its graduates into their practices and measure them based on patient health status. Doctors who choose to work with cancer patients, for example, see a higher mortality rate in their caseloads. “It’s cumbersome for us to follow our teachers out of the classroom. It’s a stretch to say that everything that happens in the classroom is because of a teacher,” Terrell said, noting many other factors are at play.
She said it is even more statistically invalid to trace it back to the program in which the teacher was trained.
The federal government currently measures the quality of schools as a whole based on children’s scores on high-stakes standardized tests, like the Smarter Balanced test. The new legislation would put more of an emphasis on individual teachers — if a teacher doesn’t add value over the course of the year, the teacher’s quality will be called into question. “There are a lot of teachers who work with populations where it’s tough to move the needle,” Terrell said.
Terrell gave the example of the Head Start program, where it’s harder to gauge and show success on measures with standardized tests because of socioeconomic and learning challenges. “The implications [of the legislation] for teachers are [that] it’s not a good way of showing their quality. It’s going to dissuade people from working in populations with high needs,” Terrell said. “The ones that deal with the most at-risk kids are going to be the most at risk for not showing progress.”
The impact on institutions that statistically aren’t producing enough effective teachers could mean the loss of accreditation from the state and loss of Title I funds from the federal government.

As seen in the March 19, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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