A group of alternative certification programs, the most significant of them being Teach for America, declared their support for the Obama administration’s plan to grade colleges of education by the test scores of the students taught by their graduates. Alternative certification teachers typically do not go to colleges of education, which is why their certification is “alternative.” Their decision to weigh in on this issue, which does not affect them, is no doubt intended to shutter the teacher prep programs where students study education for one or more years. It also is an expression of their support for value-added-measurement (VAM), which does not affect alternatively certified teachers who enter the classroom for only one or two years because they are not in teaching long enough to produce data by which to be evaluated.


The Department of Education’s proposal would make test scores the overriding purpose of education. Courses in child development, cognitive theory, the history and politics of education, psychometrics, and other studies that are usually part of teacher preparation, would be irrelevant as compared to test prep. Test prep is the specialty of the “graduate” schools (like Relay) that prepare charter school teachers, where many TFA teachers teach. The proposal would also discourage teachers from taking assignments in hard-to-staff schools or teaching students with disabilities, where it is harder to raise test scores, as compared to suburban districts and non-disabled students.


The groups represent (at most) 80,000 teachers out of more than 3 million teachers. Their proposal does not affect their own members. It supports junk science.


According to the Education Department plan, programs that train teachers would collect data on items such as the teaching performance of their graduates in the job market and track the exam scores of the graduates’ students—an approach challenged by teachers’ unions and many in the teacher-preparation business.


“This is neither a valid nor reliable way of assessing teacher quality,” Kevin Kumashiro, dean of the University of San Francisco’s School of Education, said in an interview, referring to the regulations. In a National Education Policy Center review last month, he argued that the proposed regulations would, among other things, too narrowly define the role of a teacher.