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Committee Statements

Foxx Statement: “Exploring Efforts to Strengthen the Teaching Profession"

As prepared for delivery.

So often teachers are unfairly blamed for the problems in our nation’s school.  I had excellent teachers throughout my education and know many exceptional teachers.  In fact, my own experience highlights the difference a good teacher and educational opportunity can make in the life of a student. While we will take an honest look at teacher preparation programs today, I want to commend the hardworking individuals on the frontlines of education every day.

I believe I speak for most, if not all, of my colleagues here today when I say there is an urgent need to address the sad state of teacher preparation programs in this country. According to the National Council of Teacher Quality’s 2013 Teacher Prep Review, teacher preparation programs at American colleges and universities “have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity.” 

The scathing report details myriad problems within teacher preparation systems, including overly-lenient admissions policies, outdated coursework, and a severe lack of hands-on classroom experience. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, education consultant Harold Kwalwasser and Napa County Superintendent Dr. Barbara Nemko echoed the National Council of Teacher Quality’s findings, stating, “Too often, these future educators learn to ‘teach’ math, but they don't necessarily learn how to do the math itself.”

Without strong teacher preparation programs, we cannot make real progress in our efforts to improve K-12 schools, raise graduation rates, and help more children get on the path to a successful future.  It is time to shine a bright light on the problems with teacher preparation as we examine ways school districts, postsecondary institutions, organizations, and states are working together to challenge the status quo. 

Chairman Rokita has already discussed ways states and school districts are working to bring more effective teachers into the classroom, and reviewed our efforts in the Student Success Act to support state and local efforts to recruit, hire, and retain better educators.  

On the postsecondary level, four institutions have earned national recognition for their efforts to strengthen the teaching profession. Rigorous coursework, high academic standards, and extensive hands-on experience at The Ohio State University, Lipscomb University, Furman University, and Vanderbilt University have earned these institutions’ teacher preparation programs high marks from the National Council on Teacher Quality. We are fortunate to have Dr. Marcy Singler-Garbella from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College with us today to describe the institution’s efforts to ensure students graduate ready to move to the front of the classroom. 

As the committee continues to prepare for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, reducing regulatory burdens on higher education institutions remains a top priority. Like most postsecondary programs, teacher colleges are overwhelmed with reporting requirements, few of which have any real bearing on the quality of teachers produced by the programs.  

While we agree on the need to strengthen data collection under the law, we must make sure the right kind of data is collected to provide helpful information.  I look forward to continuing conversations with my colleagues on ways to help states and schools report useful, timely information for policymakers, states, districts, institutions, prospective teachers, and the public. We also must ensure federally mandated reporting requirements do not create additional burdens or hinder the good work already underway.  

We must also continue monitoring actions by the Obama administration that would increase federal overreach and limit innovation in postsecondary education, especially with regard to the teaching profession.  I remain concerned about the direction of the administration’s spring 2012 negotiated rulemaking session, which did not result in consensus among participants. Though the regulations have yet to be released, I am wary of any new federal dictates on teacher preparation programs, program quality, and teacher effectiveness. These responsibilities are best left to states and institutions, not federal bureaucrats.

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