Negotiations over new rules for the nation's teacher-preparation programs collapsed on Thursday, with representatives from the Education Department and teacher-training colleges divided over a plan to require states to rate programs based on student-learning outcomes.
During a three-hour conference call aimed at resolving the panel's differences, negotiators from minority-serving institutions and private colleges said they were uncomfortable being evaluated based on how much their graduates' future students learn, saying existing measures are unproven.
"I have not seen a research base" to justify including learning outcomes in the criteria for ranking institutions, said Beverly Young, assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs for the California State University system, who was representing Hispanic-serving institutions.
Department officials expressed some surprise at the pushback, saying they thought the disagreement had been resolved last week, when they agreed to grant states temporary waivers from the rating requirement and to require all states to confirm the validity and reliability of their student-learning measures within five years.
The college representatives countered that the panel had never discussed the "big issues" surrounding the plan, spending most of its time on technical issues.
Under the department's proposal, states would have been required to evaluate programs based on their graduates' employment outcomes, the academic "growth" of their graduates' future students (as measured by test scores, when available), and customer-satisfaction surveys. Only highly rated programs would have been eligible to award federal Teach Grants, which provide up to $4,000 a year to students who plan to work in high-need areas.
Thursday's conference call was a last-ditch attempt to reach agreement on the plan, after a week's worth of in-person discussions over the course of three months failed to produce a consensus. The impasse leaves the department free to propose whatever evaluation system it wants, without regard to compromises reached during negotiations. However, department officials implied they will take the panel's views into account when drafting their rules.
"We had many good conversations that will enable us to write a better regulation, but at this point, I can't see that we can continue," said Sophia McArdle, the department's chief representative on the panel.