The Education Dept. (DoEd) needs to do a better job monitoring a $35 million program that helps improves teacher preparation and enhance K-12 student achievement, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.
DoEd is doing a poor job in making sure that state preparation programs are keeping bad teachers from entering the classroom, the report said. DoEd should develop a risk-based, cost-effective strategy to verify that states are implementing a process for assessing whether any teacher preparation programs are low-performing.
Last year, DoEd awarded 24 grants as part of the $35 million in Teacher Quality Partnership competition. The winners were pledged to improve teacher preparation primarily for science, technology, engineering, and math teachers. GAO noted that other programs also helped in teach prep, like the Transition to Teaching grant program also provides grants to recruit and retain teachers in high-need, the Race to the Top Fund, the Investing in Innovation Fund, and the Supporting Effective Educator Development program.
GAO revealed that the entire process is a mess. To get the federal grants, states must verify that they are assessing whether the programs are low-performing. Seven states reported to GAO that they do not have a process to do so. State officials who reported not having a process in GAO’s survey cited several reasons, including that they believed other oversight procedures were sufficient to ensure quality.
On top of that, federal education officials told GAO they have not verified states’ processes to identify low-performing programs. DoEd missed opportunities to share information about teacher prep quality internally and with state oversight entities, the report said. Federal internal controls standards highlight the value of effective information-sharing with internal and external stakeholders. However, DoEd does not have mechanisms in place to promote regular, sustained information-sharing among its various program offices that support teacher prep quality because the workgroup that used to facilitate such information-sharing was discontinued, the report said.
Without such a mechanism, DoEd cannot fully leverage information about teacher prep quality gathered by its various programs.
Further, DoEd’s current efforts to share information about teacher prep quality with states only reach about a third of states, according to GAO’s survey, although about half of all states reported that they wanted more of such information. DoEd officials acknowledged that more could be done to share information with states and other stakeholders. Without such efforts, DoEd may miss opportunities to support state efforts to improve teacher prep quality, the report said.
GAO recommended that DoEd do a better job in monitoring the state programs as well as develop and implement mechanisms to systematically share information about teacher preparation program quality. The department agreed with the recommendations.