Kenneth Zeichner is a professor emeritus of teacher education at the University of Wisconsin. He read the “Every Student Succeeds Act” closely and concluded that its provisions will be extremely destructive to the teaching profession and will lower standards for aspiring teachers. The act will however, benefit the reformers’ fast-track programs, so their candidates can bypass teacher education except in their own non-traditional programs, where charter teachers teach charter teachers how to raise test scores.


Zeichner writes:


There are provisions in the bill for the establishment of teacher preparation academies – and they are written to primarily support non-traditional, non-university programs.
In October 2013, I criticized a bill called the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act, known as the GREAT Act. It was initiated in March 2011 in conversations between leaders of the New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF); Norm Atkins, founder of the Relay Graduate School of Education; Tim Knowles of the University of Chicago; and several members of Congress.


The purpose of this bill was to provide public funds for promoting the growth of entrepreneurial teacher education programs such as the ones seeded by New Schools Venture Fund (for example, Relay, MATCH Teacher Residency and Urban Teachers) that are mostly run by non-profits. At the time, the CEO of NSVF was Ted Mitchell, who is now the U.S. under secretary of education….


Zeichner writes that:


….the provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act that relate to teacher preparation academies have been primarily written to support entrepreneurial programs like those funded by venture philanthropists. These include fast-track teacher education programs such as Teach For America, Relay and TNTP, which place individuals in classrooms as teachers of record before they complete certification requirements. Typically these classrooms are in schools that serve students in high-poverty communities. Although there have been some changes in the language in since 2011, the provisions still serve to reduce standards for teachers prepared through the academies and will widen inequities rather than reduce them.


Zeichner picked out this doozy of a requirement:



A second provision in the new legislation that is troubling is the requirement that the authorizers of teacher preparation academies issue degrees or certificates of completion “only after the teacher demonstrates that he or she is an effective teacher as determined by the State, with a demonstrated record of increasing student achievement either as a student teacher or teacher-of-record.” This federal requirement of requiring states to include in their definition of effective teaching a demonstrated record of increasing student achievement is inconsistent with the rules of construction for Title 2 of the bill. These are specified in section 2302 (pp.407-408).


“Nothing in this Title shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any other officer or employee of the federal government to mandate, direct, or control, a State, local educational agency, or school’s … teacher, principal, or other school leader professional standards, certification, or licensing.”


Requiring states to include a “demonstrated record in increasing student achievement” for program completion in academies (a provision in the original GREAT Act as well) is inconsistent with the intent of the bill to limit federal control over matters controlled by state authority. It also does not make sense to require this for student teachers, interns or residents who are not teachers-of-record and who complete their clinical experiences in the classrooms of experienced mentor teachers. Student achievement in the classrooms of nonfast-tracked teacher candidates will be mostly a reflection of the teaching of the mentor teachers.



And the worst provision of all is this one:


Another place where the legislation oversteps the authority of the federal government is to declare on p. 306 (lines 6-14) that the completion of a program in an academy run by an organization other than a university results in a certificate of completion that may be recognized by states as “at least the equivalent of a master’s degree in education for the purpose of hiring, retention, compensation, and promotion in the state.” The federal government absolutely has no business in suggesting what should and what should not count as the equivalent of a master’s degree in individual states.


No, that is NOT the worst provision. This one is:


The most troubling aspect of the new legislation in regard to teacher preparation is its attempt to lower standards for teacher education programs that prepare teachers for high-poverty schools. It does this by exempting teacher preparation academies from what are referred to as “unnecessary restrictions on the methods of the academy.” Here the federal government is seeking to mandate definitions of the content of teacher education programs and methods of program approval that are state responsibilities.


The so-called “unnecessary restrictions” that are most troubling are the inability of states to require advanced degrees for academy faculty in academies as they do for faculty in other teacher education programs (p.305 lines 5-6), to restrict the number of course credits in the program of study (p.305 lines 10-12), to place restrictions on undergraduate coursework as long as individuals have passed state content exams (p.305 lines 13-19), and to place restrictions related to program accreditation by an accrediting body (p.305 lines 20-22). All of these restrictions on states would interfere with their responsibility to define the content and methods of approval for teacher education programs and would set a lower bar for teachers who are prepared in the academies.


Imagine the federal government supporting medical preparation academies or other professional preparation academies where the faculty would not be required to have the academic qualifications required by the states and accrediting bodies.