Debate on Tying Quality Assurance Funding to Teacher Preparation Programs Expected to Continue Next Week

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Lawmakers heard initial debate this week on a bill that would impact how higher education performance funding is awarded in Tennessee—tying part of the funding, the entire “quality assurance” portion—to outcomes from one specific academic area: Teacher Preparation Programs.

HB1481 by Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) would tie quality assurance funding for public institutions of higher education to Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) scores of graduates of Tennessee’s teacher training programs. TVAAS scores are a measure of teacher effectiveness utilized by the state. Under the bill, in order to receive quality assurance funding, each institution would need to have a high number of graduates from teacher training programs with TVAAS scores of “above expectations” or “significantly above expectations.”

If passed, it would be the first time that all quality assurance funding was tied to one specific academic program area rather than a broad set of institutional performance metrics that span a number of different academic programs.

The bill was heard this week in the House Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee. This legislation was proposed in an effort to promote accountability for public university teacher preparation programs across the state. A vote was ultimately deferred until next week, where the debate is expected to continue.

Quality Assurance Funding provides an incentive for public higher education institutions to ensure post-graduation success for students and the quality of the institution’s programs in order to align with the state’s higher education priorities. The standards are evaluated every five years by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to ensure they reflect the state’s current priorities.

The University opposes the legislation in its current form and is in ongoing dialogue with the bill sponsor and other stakeholders on the issue. Teacher preparation programs at every UT campus are actively working to best serve and prepare our students and graduates as they enter the teaching profession. In order to graduate from these programs, students must successfully complete the coursework, summative test and the clinical (student teaching) experience. All graduates must pass the Praxis Reading exam and the edTPA. Many factors influence new teacher performance, many of which are outside the University’s control including the school’s curriculum, class size, leadership, teacher support/mentoring services and teacher induction programs. While the University stands by its graduates, there is a point where teacher preparation programs have limited interaction with graduates and their individual circumstances that speak back to the program’s effectiveness.

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