The state Public Education Department is pushing to have more direct authority over teacher development programs, including taking on the oversight duties now provided by national accreditation groups.
But some are questioning whether the proposal is within PED’s authority.
By this time next month, PED wants a rule in place that allows it to rate educator preparation programs – which ultimately license teachers – through site visits and a scorecard system.
PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski said he thinks they would end up evaluating about 12 to 15 New Mexico institutions, such as the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Highlands University and New Mexico State University, if the rule goes through.
The proposed evaluation system mirrors PED’s teacher evaluations and school grading efforts. Both systems have generated controversy in public school districts statewide.
PED’s proposal would allow the agency to decide whether a teacher education program may remain in operation, regardless if the institution is private or public. An institution can appeal a revocation but ultimately PED has final decision-making power, according to the rule.
PED’s proposed requirements include: The program’s pedagogy, or instruction in teaching methods, has to align with PED standards; teachers in training would undergo observations by PED; the institution would be required to store documentation of the observations for at least five years; and teacher trainees would be evaluated using methodology of NMTEACH, which is the state teacher evaluation system.
PED would annually score the programs, rating them on an A to F scale and evaluating their effectiveness through factors like acceptance rates of candidates into the program, how they do on performance and licensure tests and how those who complete the programs are rated in NMTEACH.
Right now, teacher preparation programs are being reviewed by national accrediting bodies like the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
But Ruszkowski said the measures those organizations provide aren’t rigorous enough and they don’t review the programs frequently enough.
“The PED has the ultimate decision-making authority over teacher preparation programs that impact K-12 education directly,” Ruszkowski said. “And what states did historically is they took the NCATE or the CAEP and used it as a rubber stamp of approval.”
While UNM declined to comment, the university has previously called NCATE the “gold standard for teacher preparation.”
If PED’s new rule goes into effect, institutions already offering teacher prep programs will have to reapply under the new standards.
Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said PED rules are a way to bypass the Legislature.
“They continue to want to use what some see as a flawed assessment to grade higher ed,” Stewart said.
To which Ruszkowski asked “why hasn’t the Legislature taken action the last decade to improve teacher preparation?”
Stewart said PED does have “minor statutory authority” to approve teacher prep programs but felt this rule was beyond its jurisdiction.
Stewart also said colleges of education and the Legislative Education Study Committee have questions over whether the rule is legal.
But PED said teacher prep and licensure has always been under its purview and said “all the work we do is about improving school performance.”
Ruszkowski also said the rule is a reflection of what the community has been asking for: more accountability in teacher prep programs.
He noted the rule is in a public feedback period and it can be altered if needed.
A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday starting at 9 a.m. in the Jerry Apodaca Education Building in Santa Fe.