Legislation asks teacher programs for data

Much of the information is already reported and available to the public.

by Haley Hansen

Legislation is on the table that would require teacher preparation programs to disclose more information to the public.

While schools already have to release data about their programs to various federal and state agencies, some lawmakers want to consolidate the information and put it in a place that’s accessible to the public.   At the same time, some education leaders say enforcing policy to release the information may be redundant and unnecessary.

A proposal  would require schools to publicly disclose data, like the programs’ participants’ SAT and ACT scores, the qualifications of faculty in the program and statistics on where participants are employed after completing the program.

But University of Minnesota associate professor of teacher development Misty Sato  said programs are already regulated extensively, and they report to both federal and state organizations to receive qualifications.

“Why do the legislators think they need a report card like this when they’ve already put into place a set of very rigorous program approval requirements?” she said.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, the chief author for the House version of the bill, said the legislation would provide more transparency regarding teacher preparation programs, benefiting future students.

A companion bill is in the Senate with similar language.

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL- Dilworth, a co-author of the House bill, said the legislation would ensure that the best teachers make it into classrooms in the state.

Rep. Sondra Erickson, R- Princeton,  who authored a comparable bill  that failed to pass a few years ago, said it’s important to provide more transparency for students who are looking to enroll in teacher preparation programs because their success impacts the state and its schools.

“We want to encourage more of our high school students to look at the teaching profession,” she said. “I think it’s important we have this information so they can make the best selection possible.”

While the information is valuable, Minnesota Association of Colleges for Teacher Education  president Kitty Foord  said, a lot of the information the state Legislature is requesting is already available for students to access. Schools currently report data to the federal government through Title II reports. 

And some of the requested data could reveal students’ identities or might not be relevant, she said.

Legislators need to carefully select what information they’re seeking so time and resources aren’t wasted to aggregate information, Foord said.

Minnesota Board of Teaching  executive director Erin Doan  agreed that it’s important the information is accessible, but it’s crucial that schools avoid redundant work trying to collect data. She said the legislation needs to clearly define exactly what data should be disclosed.

“I think that everybody’s on the same page that we think that having the information available to the public is a good thing,” she said.

Still, Rep. JoAnn Ward, DFL-Woodbury, who co-authored the House bill, maintained that the current information available online is inconsistent and isn’t helpful.

“People don’t like change sometimes,” she said. “And I don’t know if we’re asking them anything unreasonable.”