Advocates Urge Congress to Renew Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program

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by Jamaal Abdul-Alim

TQP

The U.S. Department of Education says the primary purposes of the Teacher Quality Partnership program were to improve student achievement and the quality of new prospective teachers.

WASHINGTON — Congressional lawmakers were urged Monday to renew funding for the Teacher Quality Partnership grant program, a federal initiative that higher education leaders say has helped raise student achievement and foster diversity within the teaching profession.

“It is hard to overestimate the importance of federal investment to build capacity in our education system,” said Alison Hilsabeck, dean of the National College of Education at National Louis University in Chicago, one of the dozens of colleges and universities that have been grantees of the program — known as TQP — since the five-year program was launched in 2009.

“We need grants, like the TQPs, that can create the space for innovation and the resources for multiple stakeholders to collaborate in improving our education system,” Hilsabeck said.

Hilsabeck made her remarks on Capitol Hill during a policy briefing titled “Teacher Preparation Reform: The Case for Federal Investment.” The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, or AACTE, convened the briefing in an effort to convince Congress to renew funding for the TQP program, which was initially authorized at $300 million under Title II of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.

New funding for the program is not included in the Obama administration’s fiscal 2014 budget.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the primary purposes of the program were to improve student achievement and the quality of new prospective teachers by “improving the preparation of prospective teachers and enhancing professional development activities for teachers.”

It was also meant to hold teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education “accountable for preparing highly qualified teachers, and to recruit highly qualified individuals, including minorities and individuals from other occupations, into the teaching force,” the department states.

Those goals were to be achieved by creating partnerships among institutions of higher education and “high-need” school districts, the department states on its website about the program. The website does not include any data regarding program performance.

Several speakers praised TQP for its emphasis on extensive clinical preparation and, for those who participate in teacher residency programs, financial aid in exchange for a commitment to teach in high-need fields in the high-need district where they were prepared for at least three years.

Patrice Duncan, a 3rd grade teacher at Clark Elementary School in Wichita, Kan., said the financial aid played a crucial role in enabling her to enter teaching as a single mother who wanted to switch careers.

“Being able to support myself while receiving top-notch preparation through Wichita State University’s College of Education has contributed significantly to my success as a new teacher,” Duncan said.

Candidates are prepared to teach students with disabilities, as well as English language learners.

Though grantees were expected to maintain reforms under the program even after funding ends, Hilsabeck says the demise of the program will lessen the ability of colleges and universities to build upon the reforms and innovations that produced positive results during the initial grant period.

She spoke of how her university used to grant money to build a partnership with the Academy for Urban School Leadership, or AUSL, that has better enabled the university to produce teachers that raise student achievement and recruit a more diverse pool of teacher candidates.

For instance, she said, students in the AUSL network elementary schools improved by an average of 8 percentage points on the state’s standardized tests compared to last year, more than double the district’s average gain of 3.8 percentage points.

As for diversity, she said: “Many institutions of higher ed would regard a 20 percent representation of underrepresented populations as being good. We’re recruiting between 50 and 90 percent candidates of color. I think that’s a stupendous statement to the efficiencies of being able to have the resources and the time and the space to really try and grapple with that issue in really innovative and new ways.”

Panelist Samantha Baysinger, a graduate of Arizona State University, a TQP grantee, noted how the school where she teaches third grade, Michael Anderson Elementary School in Avondale, Ariz., had the greatest growth in the school district last year.

She continues to work with her alma mater as a “cooperating teacher,” mentoring teacher candidates, including several she took into her classroom.

“I was eager to take on ASU’s teacher candidates in the classroom, not only because I knew they were receiving high-quality preparing, but also because I knew ASU would provide me with the professional development I need to be an effective mentor to the candidates,” Baysinger said.

Baysinger emphasized the practical experience gained through TQP in preparing her for the demands of the classroom.

Sharon Robinson, president and CEO of AACTE, said TQP grants support best practice incorporation in developing new educators for the classroom.

“At a time of intense debate on how to create a reliable pool and supply of educators ready for the realities of practice, I believe that the Teacher Quality Partnership grants work,” Robinson said.

Jamaal Abdul-Alim is a 2013-2014 Spencer Education Journalism Fellow at Columbia University.

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