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Letter to the Senate on the Higher Education bill

July 23, 2007

Dear Senator:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, including some 200,000 students, faculty, and staff at postsecondary institutions, we would like to offer our views regarding the Higher Education Amendments of 2007 (S. 1642), currently on the Senate floor.

We are pleased that the bill reflects the need to provide more support to prospective teachers and to equip them with stronger pedagogical skills to teach an increasingly diverse student population. Specifically, we support the proposed:

  • Changes to the definition of "teaching skills," which reflect the broader range of skills needed to implement multiple measures of student assessment, rather than the current emphasis on standardized, multiple-choice tests;
  • Increased focus on induction and teaching residency programs to help new teachers continue to strengthen their skills;
  • Efforts to help teachers learn how to foster parental involvement in their classrooms;
  • Focus on training teachers in early education;
  • Recognition of the state role in providing support for teacher preparation programs; and
  • The addition of a pilot program to bolster state data systems, which will help in the long run in evaluating a state's entire education system.

We do have a concern about the continued inclusion in the bill of the "academic bill of rights" (ABOR), which would make ideologically driven changes to current principle of nonintervention in curriculum and teaching under the guise of protecting students against purported, unproven bias by faculty. The quality and diversity of American higher education institutions flourish because the federal government has focused on ensuring the greatest level of access for all students while abiding by a principle of nonintervention in curriculum and teaching. Colleges and universities already have sufficient policies and procedures to ensure the quality of education, while guaranteeing the rights of students and faculty alike, including tenure and due process policies to protect academic freedom, statements of student rights and responsibilities, and student grievance procedures. We hope this language is not included in final legislation that is enacted into law.

We thank you for your consideration of our views on these important issues and look forward to continuing to work with the bill's sponsors to ensure that effective legislation is enacted for the benefit of students and our nation.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy