September 15, 1999
Honorable James M. Jeffords
Thank you for your letter regarding the State and institutional reporting requirements for teacher preparation programs as authorized in Section 207 of Title II of the Higher Education Amendments of 1998.
Section 207 is critical to improving the quality of teacher preparation in our country, and I thank you for your guidance about how it can best be implemented. The Department has undertaken numerous efforts to receive input from States and institutions of higher education on how we can meet the law's requirements for establishment of a data system on the quality of teacher preparation based on uniform definitions of key terms and uniform reporting methods, in a manner that both ensures high quality information and imposes the least possible burden. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) worked closely with States and institutions of higher education through its "Consultative Committee," which began its work in January 1999. In April, responding to concerns brought to our attention by constituent groups, NCES proposed a series of State-level focus groups with representatives from States that had developed or were developing teacher accountability systems. Congressional staff members concurred with the decision to hold focus groups, with the understanding that this effort would delay the release of the draft proposed data system. The information gained through this special outreach effort justified the additional time.
The Department published a notice in the Federal Register on July 28, 1999, inviting comment on a proposed data system. This comment period will last until September 27. After that, the Department will modify the proposed data system in light of public comment and, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act, make the Department's proposed data system available to the public for another 30-day period of public comment. I expect that this process of reviewing and responding to public comment, and of securing the required approval of the Office of Management and Budget, will not permit us to establish a final reporting system until early December.
Section 207 calls for institutions of higher education with teacher preparation programs to submit their reports to States by April 7, 2000, and States to submit their reports to the Secretary by October 7, 2000. However, following the guidance received from Congress, and consistent with what we believe to be the underlying Congressional intent, we want to give institutions of higher education a full nine months from the finalization of the data system to submit their first annual report cards to their States. We also want States to have six months after receiving the institutions' reports to submit to the Department their first annual State report cards. While we have worked very hard to develop procedures that should enable institutions and States to complete their reports in much less time, we recognize that this reporting is new, and that many institutions and States may need additional time this coming year to become informed about their reporting responsibilities.
Therefore, once the data system is finalized, we expect to advise institutions and States that they will have an additional few months beyond the statutory reporting dates to submit their respective reports. It is our hope that after receiving the State reports, the Department will be able to make up some time, and submit to the Congress the first Secretary's Annual Report on the Quality of Teacher Preparation as close as possible to April 7, 2001, the date specified in section 207(d). I add only that these delays in reporting should be a one-time event; in subsequent years, States and institutions should have ample time to meet the reporting schedule established in the statute.
Finally, I want to respond to concerns that the Department would use the authority provided in section 207(f)(3) to impose fines on institutions that fail to submit required information in a timely and accurate manner. The reporting requirements in Title II of the Higher Education Act are the centerpiece of a new system of public accountability that Congress recognized as vital to improving the quality of the nation's new teachers. The public needs the full support of all institutions with teacher preparation programs if these important accountability measures are to achieve their purpose. In this initial year of implementing the new reporting system, it is my expectation that we can achieve full support through positive approaches rather than through the imposition of fines.
I very much appreciate your guidance and support as we work together to ensure that teachers enter their profession with the knowledge and skills they need to enable all of the nation's children to succeed.
Richard W. Riley
Our mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the Nation.
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This page last updated September 16, 1999 (pjk)