Friday, May 3, 2013

An Open Letter to members of the Delaware House of Representatives

[I will be sending this letter personally to my own Rep and others; I encourage you to cut and paste as necessary and send it to yours.]

Within the near future, SB 51, which purports to raise standards for teacher education preparation programs in Delaware will come across to the House.

I am asking you to look past the "feel good" rhetoric in the precis of the bill, to look past the unanimous Senate vote in favor of it, and to look past the claims by the Governor's office that these changes will make Delaware eligible for additional Federal grant money.

Instead, please consider the following:

1.  This bill was prepared and introduced without the input of the Professional Standards Board, the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wilmington University, or many relevant offices within the Delaware Department of Education.  In other words, legislation that will make dramatic structural changes to teacher preparation and licensing are already coming to the General Assembly without any input or data from either the organizations that prepare our new teachers or the board which credentials them.  This should be a red flag.

2.  Delaware already has in place a rigorous set of standards for teacher preparation and certification.  Our universities are accredited by NCATE [National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education], which enforces the toughest national standards in real time.  Our Professional Standards Board has done yeoman work over the past two decades to tighten licensing requirements and carefully assess the qualifications of each applicant.

3.  Our current approach works.  Between the entrance and exit requirements, UD and DSU already winnow out over two-thirds of the students interested in teaching careers.  All students graduating from UD, DSU, and WU have passed Praxis I and II; have logged hundreds of hours of observation and additional hundreds more hours of supervised teaching under the watchful eye of master teachers in our public schools.  Compared to the standards even 10 years ago, new Delaware teachers graduated by these universities are the best prepared to enter the classroom in our history.

4.  There is no research to suggest that our new teachers have significant problems in the classroom that impacts student learning.  Aside from the anecdotal offerings you may have heard, when you inquire you will discover that there is no data suggesting that students with new teachers (a) fare less well on standardized tests; or (b) have greater disciplinary problems.  If anything, our graduates are better prepared to handle the latest innovations in instructional technology than their peers, and understand the high-stakes testing environment better because they have lived through it as students.

5.  SB 51, as amended by SA-1, will have a corrosive structural impact on Delaware's ability to train and certify new teachers that will far outweigh any positives received from Federal grant money.  The changes in SB 51/SA-1 actually lower some credentialing standards rather than raise them [see the section on now accepting Composite Scores].  The sweeping provisions of this bill will literally require all credentialing standards in the State to be rewritten from the ground up.  The new provisions for teacher preparation programs will not only waste valuable time in meaningless new compliance, but will also divert resources away from students, endanger the NCATE certification process, and serve to make it more difficult to recruit the "best and brightest" into public education.

I urge you to vote against this bill, either in committee or on the House floor.

If you believe that our teacher preparation and certification program needs revision, then I urge you to demand that legislation be crafted that (a) involves input and review from the Professional Standards Board and our universities; (b) is supported by actual research and data; and (c) is accompanied by an impact statement regarding how this will affect recruiting and certification of new teachers.

Please do not allow seriously flawed legislation to slip through on your watch because the precis of the bill uses bipartisan platitudes that would be better employed on a Hallmark greeting card than in a serious bill.

You can find your House Rep's email address here.

This is a bad bill.  A very bad bill.  Please do what you can to stop it.


Delaware Watch said...

Great job, Steve. If the House were wise, they would invite you testify about this bill.

NCSDad said...


kavips said...

If I get time I'll do it later but it first goes to committee. Get the list up for who is on that committee ...

One or two extra negative votes attached to it when it goes on the floor could make all the difference in the world, of whether it flies unread, or gets picked apart. If it gets picked apart then it may not make in on the docket.

kavips said...

When does this one come up?

kavips said...

Rats. out of committee yesterday. A little better than the Senate, with at least one unfavorable. Downside was that it had a proponent, which the Senate committee lacked.

Now heavy lifting.

As for being processed on its merits, that means simply put it up for a vote. The way the bill was written politically makes it hard to explain back home why you shouldn't be for better teaching standards.

We need 22 votes.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to rain on your rant, but you are very wrong in many things you have posted here. 1) Many ed stakeholders were involved in this bill and its development since January when the Governor mentioned this in his state of the state address. All four higher ed's have signed on to support this bill. Wilmington U asked for a few clarifications and changes to be made and had that accommodated, even when they came back after it was filed and wanted an small amendment it was incorporated as was language requested from PSB included in the amendment. The PSB was a part of the discussion group as this bill was developed as was the SBE, the DOE and the higher ed groups. Each one of those groups if not more provided feedback before it was ever filed in the Senate.
2) The composite score component that you referenced is not created by this bill, it is already in the law and through the amendment was actually removed from the law
3) This bill doesn't replace NCATE accreditation, but hopefully you are aware that NCATE no longer exists and instead new accreditatino standards are being developed by CAEP after NCATE and TEAC merged to form one national accrediting body. They also pledged to raise their standards for receiving accreditation. Additionally the requirements for a higher ed institution's ed prep program to have NCATE accreditation has always resided in regulation not statute and that hasn't gone away, but I am sure it will be updated to incorporate the new CAEP standards
4) Additionally, are you aware that the ranking that you linked is for graduate degrees in education not bachelor's which is where our brand new teachers coming out of teacher prep programs originate? Additionally based on recent data released by Harvard, which is studying DE's teacher pool, most of the teachers in DE with graduate degrees don't come from UD but actually they come from Wilmington University.
Maybe the real facts on these matters are actually why this bill has the support of every higher ed institution, all the education stakeholders in the state, and passed the senate unanimously!

Steve Newton said...

Anon, this is all very clever of you, and very artfully written, but oh so inaccurate.

1. None of the institutions of higher ed were involved in the writing of the bill. All were asked to comment on it after it was written and they had all been told the governor was behind it. What do you think happens when institutions who receive multi-million dollar allotments from the State say when the Governor says, "This is what I want, how about it?" You ducked the fact that the Professional Standards Board was never involved. In point of fact the primary education stakeholders involved in creating this bill were a few bureaucrats from DOE and some DSEA rep teachers.

If the intent of this bill had been genuinely to improve teacher training an effort would have been made to include the faculty at those institutions who actually conduct teacher training. Didn't happen, no matter how much lipstick you try to put on that pig.

2. The composite isn't the only problem; the two-point exemption on Praxis II and the potentially dangerous ten percent waiver for GPAs are both major problems. But you wouldn't know that because--again--the Professional Standards Board and the education faculties of the universities were not involved in writing it.

3. I know far more about NCATE than you ever will, having worked through four of them, and I am well aware that NCATE will become a new alphabet soup. All of that is immaterial to the point: no, this bill doesn't eliminate an outside certifying agency, it adds an extra layer of complexity to the certification process that is at odds with the current (and future) NCATE-type standards. For example, for NCATE institutions have to show that all students entering teacher preparation are held to the same standards. This bill, with its 10% exemption from those standards, automatically becomes a problem with the external accrediting agency.

4. Let's have you release the recent data from Harvard. I am quite aware that more ed grads come out of WU than UD. My statement was that when you consider WU, UD and DSU you have over 95% of our graduates. That is not incorrect. You again shuffle past the heart of the matter: there is NO research supporting the fact that there is a problem in Delaware with new teacher preparation, because if you had it, you'd certainly be citing it.

To summarize: the higher leadership of all three universities signed off on this bill because they literally have no choice. The education faculty members who do the teacher prep didn't sign off; as a group they were not consulted.

This bill is a product of DSEA seeking a bigger "seat at the table," Governor Markell seeking a national rep as an ed reformer, and Vision 2015 attempting to hide the fact that education "reform" in Delaware has thus far been an expensive disappointment.

But nice try, and thanks for playing.

Anonymous said...

Again, you are errant in your protests against this positive step (albeit just a step, because there is still work to be done in developing/selecting appropriate content specific assessments and performance assessments for initial licensure) (here is data which has been public since March!) not sure why you believe that 95% of our teachers are coming from DE institutions, but it's only 59%, thus the need for changes not only to Ed prep guidelines but also Licensing.

Additionally, I suggest you ask the higher Ed presidents and provosts as well as the PSB executive director if in fact they provided comment on draft legislation and if those comments provided actually resulted in changed language to the bill before it was filed...I can help you out, the answer to that question is YES they did provide comment and it was incorporated into the bill...gee thats collaboration in the development of the bill, last time I checked!
Have you asked who testified in support of the bill? In both the senate and house there were speakers from higher Ed as well as PSB that pledged support of the bill and encouraged the legislators to vote for the bill.

You mention the GPA requirement in the bill, but have you read it carefully? It says a teacher candidate must meet one of four entrance criteria (currently there are not uniform criteria for entrance into a teacher prep program and if you do a search of the higher Ed websites you would be hard pressed to see specific entrance criteria outlined) the proposed entrance criteria include a 3.0 GPA, OR being in the top half of their class, OR meeting a score on a test of general knowledge, such as SAT, ACT, Praxis (note this is already a requirement for licensure), or other assessments to be named in regulation, OR provide the higher Ed the flexibility if they choose to waive those requirements for up to 10% of their entrants.
Do you really want individuals teaching our children that can't meet one of those four criteria?

Additionally your concerns regarding institution accreditation is still incorrect since that has not changed in regulation and this legislation will not remove the requirement of NCATE or soon to be CAEP accreditation nor will that interfere with those standards.