Teacher Preparation: Multiple Federal Education Offices Support Teacher Preparation for Instructing Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners, but Systematic Departmentwide Coordination Could Enhance This Assistance

GAO-09-573 Published: Jul 20, 2009. Publicly Released: Aug 19, 2009.
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In 2005-2006, students with disabilities comprised 9 percent of the student population in the United States, and English language learners comprised about 10 percent. Many of these students spend a majority of their time in the general classroom setting in elementary and secondary schools. Most teachers are initially trained through teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education. GAO was asked to examine (1) the extent to which teacher preparation programs require preparation for general classroom teachers to instruct these student subgroups; (2) the role selected states play in preparing general classroom teachers to instruct these student subgroups; and (3) funding and other assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Education (Education) to help general classroom teachers instruct these student subgroups. To address these issues, GAO conducted a nationally representative survey of teacher preparation programs and interviewed officials from state and local educational agencies in four states and Education.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should develop and implement a departmentwide mechanism to ensure more systematic coordination among Education's offices that oversee grant programs, research, and technical assistance that can help prospective and practicing teachers to instruct students with disabilities and English language learners in the general classroom.
Closed – Implemented
In 2009, the Department reported that it had taken steps to coordinate various activities across offices, including the development of a Human Capital Team which will provide a mechanism to create a consistent policy relating to the effectiveness and equitable distribution of teachers and principals. The Department states that this team will also provide a structure to enable more effective collaboration across the Department. As the work of the Human Capital Team evolves, the Department states that it will examine issues related to the teaching of students with disabilities and English language learners and strategies to help ensure that teachers have the knowledge and skills to instruct these students in the regular classroom. In FY12, Education reported that its Academic Improvement and Teacher Quality office and Policy and Program Study Services are conducting inter-office monthly meetings among teacher quality programs. Teacher quality program offices are meeting regularly to share information and devise ways to compile the information and disseminate internally and externally. The meetings provide an opportunity for representatives from each of the program offices to report on their specific programs, share resources and coordinate with other program offices. Technical working groups have been organized to accomplish tasks that are generated by the meeting discussions. Topical meetings will be conducted to further inform the group on current research, policy and other events.

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