A fight over accountability pits Obama administration against online teaching schools
teachers who learn the job online perform as well as teachers trained in the same kind of brick-and-mortar classroom they’re likely to teach in? A new set of proposals to regulate online teacher preparation programs from the federal government is an effort to find out which programs are working and which aren’t, but it’s facing widespread opposition from the world of distance learning.
Late in 2014, the Department of Education revealed its plans to ramp up accountability for education schools, which have come under fire in recent years for lax admissions standards and questionable rigor. The move sparked a deluge of 4,800 mostly critical letters, calling out federal overreach into state affairs and denouncing reforms that would “extend the ‘test and punish’ accountability model into higher education.”
Now the DOE is grappling with how to apply its controversial rules to online teacher preparation programs, which have become the top providers of education degrees in the country. (A month-long public comment period closed on May 2.) The country’s 2,100 education schools offer a staggering 28,000 teacher certification and degree programs. At a fundamental level, online schools fear that having separate evaluation methods from brick-and-mortar campuses would set them apart and diminish their status.
The DOE’s proposal requires every state to issue a rating to online programs that grant 25 or more teaching certificates in that state. This means, for example, that the University of Phoenix, a for-profit institution which operates online in 42 states, would potentially receive 42 separate ratings. Beyond the bureaucratic burden, online universities argue that comparing ratings will be useless since each state can assign different weight to the four evaluation metrics, creating an “apples to oranges” How should online teacher programs be judged? - The Hechinger Report: