3 lessons for education schools and policymakers

A to-do list for the teacher-education community.

This is the second of two posts on AACTE’s recent report, “The Changing Teacher Preparation Profession.” Go here to read part one.

Debates continue to rage among analysts and researchers over whether university-based education schools should prepare teachers—and how much training is needed before a new recruit teaches independently. Much of the rhetoric, especially of the kind embellished by pseudo-scientific studies, is driven more by ideology than sound methodology and suggests that universities writ large do not prepare teachers adequately.

As I pointed out yesterday, AACTE’s new report, “The Changing Teacher Preparation Profession,” filled with compelling evidence and exemplars, offers an authoritative antidote to many of the current myths about teacher education.

The report reveals that more talent is entering our nation’s teacher preparation programs. It also shows that more is being done to make sure teacher candidates are learning how to teach—not in the ivory tower, but in the schools where they will actually be teaching.

But there’s still more to do. We need to ensure that new recruits can work in teams to teach to the Common Core State Standards. This will allow teachers to develop and teach their own assessments that can inform their practice, spread expertise to colleagues, and revolutionize how we hold both universities and school districts (not to mention the policymakers who make the rules) accountable for teacher preparation. Even teacher education standards promoted of late have the look and feel of teaching in the late 1980s, not the second decade of the 21st century.

Let me be clear: It is time for education schools to recruit and prepare more teachers for our high-needs schools, but it is also time for policymakers to create the conditions for them to do so. I wonder what the likes of 21st-century-oriented education schools at Alverno College, CSU-Fresno, Morgan State University, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Cincinnati could do if they had the right policies behind them.

At the report’s release event on Wednesday, I suggested three actions that need to be pursued:

1. The teaching profession must recognize and market its top-performing education schools—and expect all its members to meet high standards.
The new CAEP accreditation standards must pave the way, using multiple and valid indicators, to grade all institutions that prepare teachers. These include not just university programs, but school districts and nonprofits as well.

2. Policymakers must create incentives to promote collaboration among education schools.
To be more responsive to supply and demand, education schools must look beyond institutional and state lines. Universities will never be responsive to the field until policymakers ensure that school districts provide accurate and timely data about which teachers they need. And to counteract the longstanding role of education schools serving as the university cash cow, policymakers will also need to create additional financial incentives for education programs.

3. The teacher education community needs to promote fewer preparation programs.
Instead, it must invest more in deep clinical training and scholarships to prepare recruits for 21st-century public education. It is time for the education-school community to do what their counterparts in medicine did almost 90 years ago: eliminate weak programs and use the savings to deepen clinical training at the stronger schools.

Too much of today’s criticism of teacher education is driven by politics, not substance, and focuses on outdated issues instead of ones unique to the demands of 21st-century teaching and learning. In the coming weeks, 17 teacher leaders from the CTQ Collaboratory will release their own report on the kind of teacher preparation needed to equip new recruits to teach highly mobile students, develop their own assessments, improve data systems, engage parents and policymakers, and lead the transition of many of our high-needs schools into 24/7 community hubs. I encourage you to dive into their report as well, written by educators who work with students each and every day.