The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee starts a list of planned hearings this week on topics related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), which was last reauthorized in 2008. The focus, given the growing concerns around rising tuition and President Obama’s recent call for more accountability in higher education, will be on college access and affordability. Today is the first hearing on accreditation. Future hearings, to be announced, will cover other topics like financial aid and teacher preparation programs, two areas where The Education Trust hopes lawmakers focus their attention.
It’s that time of year again when Harvard and Princeton do-si-do at the top of the U.S. News & World Report rankings while critics bemoan the validity of such measures. (Some even counter U.S News with their own rankings — à la Washington Monthly.)
Regardless, the end result is not much help for the average prospective student.
An independent, federal review of the “Supporting Academic Freedom Through Regulatory Relief Act” heeds some of the same concerns that Education Trust (and other organizations) voiced in a letter to lawmakers this summer: It strips some of the Department of Education’s authority to hold higher education institutions accountable for gainful employment and may actually harm students by repealing long-held reporting requirements for career education programs.
The Education Trust–West has come out strongly against a proposal in California to eliminate existing state assessments while failing to fully fund new, Common Core-aligned assessments. Under the plan, parents and the public would lose vital information on student and school performance; the lack of data would also prevent the state from holding schools and districts accountable for raising achievement and closing gaps.
Strong teachers and principals are critical to closing achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from their peers. Great teaching and leading begins with strong pre-service preparation. But while most states are embracing new systems to evaluate and support educators once they are in our schools, few have focused on ensuring that prospective educators are well prepared. New standards adopted by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation have the potential to raise the bar for teacher preparation programs and improve outcomes for future teachers and their students. These standards are a very positive step, but given that accreditation is a voluntary process, their overhaul alone is not enough.
This week is round two of negotiated rulemaking on the Department of Education’s gainful employment proposal, designed to protect students from poor performing career education programs. Last year, a federal judge tossed out much of the gainful employment regulation the Department of Education issued in 2011, while at the same time insisting the department has the authority to ensure career education programs prepare students for gainful employment. Since the initial rule was issued, the public cry for an enforceable definition of gainful employment has grown louder, and the department’s new proposed regulation is a step in the right direction toward holding these programs accountable for preparing their students.
President Obama’s higher education plan, announced during a speech in Buffalo, N.Y., last month, pledges to make college more affordable. In it, Obama proposes a ratings system that measures college performance — graduation rates, loan default rates, and first-year career earnings for graduates, among other metrics — providing a systematic way to support changes to federal financial aid to colleges by linking it to outcomes. Colleges deemed effective under the ratings system would receive more federal money than colleges showing poorer performance.
WASHINGTON (August 29, 2013) — The NCLB waiver process has been far from perfect. Among other things, the initial waiver guidelines allowed states to radically reduce the emphasis on subgroup performance and were totally silent on one of the most important issues of our day: fair and equitable access to strong teachers.
In the renewal guidelines released today, the Department of Education took some steps — though in some cases, far too small — to address these and other problems.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) has the potential to be an invaluable resource to advocates and civil rights groups fighting for equity. It includes information not available from other sources about students’ school experiences and access to educational opportunities, disaggregated by different student groups. But the collection contains a number of inaccuracies and inconsistencies that undermine its use. Recognizing the huge value of the CRDC but also the need to make improvements to it, The Education Trust submitted public comments with recommendations for future data collections. These comments are aimed at improving the quality and usability of these important data.
Last week, the ACT released The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2013, its annual report examining performance and college readiness among ACT-tested graduates. The report’s findings remind us that we have a long way to go to make sure that all students leave high school prepared for college and the workplace.