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Friday Churn: DOE on teacher prep

Updated 2 p.m. – The U.S. Department of Education today announced a new effort to improve teacher preparation programs by streamlining regulation, focusing more on program effectiveness and incentivising strong candidates with financial support.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, backed by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., National Education Association President Dennis Van Ronkel and Teacher for America CEO Wendy Kopp, said the initiative addresses “the urgent mission of elevating teacher preparation programs,” whose current quality he described as “very, very uneven.”

DOE proposes to reduce current reporting requirements by states and schools of education and replace them with a streamlined set that includes measurements of results. “The Department wants states to identify the best teacher preparation programs and encourage others to improve by linking student test scores back to teachers and their schools of education,” according to a DOE news release.

The plan also include two scholarship programs, one for promising candidates to attend top programs and teach in high-needs subjects at high-needs schools, and the second for preparation of minority teachers.

Bennet, who effusively and repeated praised Duncan during a conference call with reporters, said the plan is “exactly aligned with the work that is going on in the Denver Public Schools,” where Bennet once was superintendent.

Teacher preparation has not been a major element in the raft of Colorado education reform measures passed in recent years. A law passed last spring, Senate Bill 11-245, expands the oversight of teacher prep programs by the Department of Higher Education, focuses somewhat more on outcomes and assigns the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to make recommendations for a new system by Dec. 30, 2013.

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What’s churning:

The University of Colorado Board of Regents has its first vacancy in 35 years with the resignation of Monisha Merchant, a Lakewood Democrats elected to the board in 2008 from the 7th Congressional District.

Merchant, an MIT grad whose resume includes stints as a product manager, business consultant and work with non-profits, is going to work as a staff member for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

This is the first resignation since 1976 from the regents, the state’s only elected higher education board. Gov. John Hickenlooper will appoint a successor to serve until the 2012 election.

The board currently has a 5-4 Republican majority. Three other seats, the District 3 and District 5 spots currently held by Republicans and a statewide seat held by a Democrat, also will be on the ballot next year.

In case you missed it Thursday: Mayor Michael Hancock is throwing his support behind Anne Rowe in the battle to represent Denver’s District 1 on the DPS board.

Rowe is competing with Emily Sirota for the open southeast Denver seat.

Hancock previously endorsed Happy Haynes for the open at-large seat but hasn’t yet endorsed in northwest Denver’s District 5, where Jennifer Draper Carson is trying to unseat incumbent Arturo Jimenez.

Rowe, 51, is a small business owner and a founding co-chair of A+ Denver. “I am thrilled by Mayor Hancock’s endorsement,” she said.

Meanwhile, Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher announced he is endorsing Sirota, saying, “Emily will be a great board member for southeast Denver because she is not afraid to tell the truth about the administration. … Emily will raise hell about the fiscal waste and mismanagement which has scandalized this administration.”

Also Thursday, Jimenez announced that he’s been endorsed by the Unified Association of Realtors, which also has endorsed Sirota and at-large candidate Roger Kilgore. The group is a new organization that includes the former Denver Board of Realtors.