Outside editorial: Refocusing the teacher-quality debate

The following editorial first appeared in the Seattle Times:

Changes to the nation’s 1,400 teachers’ colleges and university programs proposed by the Obama administration promise to remove burdensome regulations and improve teacher training.

The 440 different measures the schools are required to report on annually ought to be reduced significantly. Fewer reports will not mean less information.

The Department of Education proposes different measures focused on outcomes, including asking schools to report how many graduates of teacher-education programs fill shortage positions, such as teaching math in high-poverty schools; how satisfied school principals are with their preparation and how much the graduates, once in the classroom, improved student learning based on test scores.

This kind of perspective is sorely needed. “Too many future teachers graduate from prep programs unprepared for success in the classroom,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan correctly notes.

A growing chorus of critics, including prominent education professors, are amplifying concerns about weaknesses in teacher-prep programs.

The director of teacher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education was quoted on a New York Times online forum as saying that of the nation’s 1,300 graduate teacher-training programs, only about 100 were doing a competent job.

The rest “could be shut down tomorrow,” said Harvard’s Katherine Merseth.

Before that option is exercised, hope rests on the federal reform plan to reward the best teacher-training programs and beef up the others. The plan has broad support from the National Education Association and Teach for America, a teacher-training corps with its own set of critics, including the teachers unions.

The proposed rules move teacher-quality efforts closer to a training system with clear performance requirements and closely followed outcomes. Future teachers ought to be better trained as well as better supported.

The profession of teaching is improved with fewer regulatory burdens, better support for the top training programs and strict accountability for preparing teachers for real classrooms.

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 20:01

My Turn: Mental health patients have rights

In the state’s ongoing effort to manage the rising costs of treating the disabled, it is the disabled who pay the price. In too many cases, there is no state standard of care for the disabled, even in regulations; when the state wants to save money, the first and easiest place is to encourage private facilities to reduce the quality of care and treatment for disabled psychiatric patients.

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 20:01

My Turn: Trump’s looming assault on the separation of church and state

The president’s recent spate of executive orders; the continuing debate surrounding his immigration ban; the fallout resulting from his contentious interactions with two of our most trusted allies (Australia and Mexico); and his shocking defense of Vladimir Putin, a criminal, dictator and human rights violator, succeeded in deflecting attention from his fiery pronouncement to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches from engaging in political activity at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status. What the distractions failed accomplish, however, was diminishing the importance of safeguarding the principle of the separation of church and state.

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 20:01

Letter: Go see ‘West Side Story’

I am writing to alert the Juneau community about West Side Story, one of the best theater productions that I have seen in Juneau in over 31 years of living here.

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 20:01

My Turn: Does Alaska have a spending problem? Benchmarking is the answer.

The governor, some in the Legislature and even some prominent Alaskans don’t believe Alaska has a spending problem. They say that Alaska has a revenue problem and argue that Alaska needs to implement more revenue options, i.e. taking your money to fuel big government. Their tired refrain is simply to argue, “you can’t cut your way to prosperity.” On the contrary, we all know that you can’t spend your way to prosperity!

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