Future of teacher prep

Recently USA Today featured an editorial co-authored by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and TFA founder Wendy Kopp that addressed changes needed in teacher preparation.

While some of the article’s content is clearly problematic; taken in a larger context–it could be a signal of an interesting and much-needed shift in the educational landscape.

Kopp and the TFA leadership may finally be ready to address one of the strongest criticisms of their program model: It’s insufficient preparation of willing, young candidates for the challenges into which they are being sent.  Hopefully, Kopp, Van Roekel, and other educational leaders are getting ready to act on recommendations such as those submitted by the Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching (CETT)–made up of outstanding classroom teachers–that outline both the need and real steps for better teacher preparation. (I’d suggest reading that thoroughly then consider revising your editorial).

The CETT (of which I was a part) was firm on this point: All teacher preparation programs need to be held to the same level of quality, whether a university-based teacher education program or one of the hundreds of alternative route programs around the country, of which TFA is the most well-known.

Even more radical is our notion that those responsible for training new teachers should themselves be highly effective, high quality teachers, and every new teacher should be trained by those experts in real learning sites (brick-and-mortar, hybrid, or virtual).

The fact is there probably will be more people who do not enter teaching as a lifetime career commitment for a variety of reasons, and more people who will be entering teaching from other careers.

But picture this:

A team of six to eight teachers of varying expertise and experience (and with different career intentions) might work with 150-175 students over a number of years. Among the team might be several highly accomplished teachers who will supervise and work with a selection of novice teachers…supported by teacher assistants, content specialists, virtual mentors, community experts…Instead of continuing to pursue the impossible dream of finding a single, seasoned teacher expert for every classroom in every school, district-college-community compacts would focus on cultivating these close-knit teacher teams….As co-author Shannon C’de Baca notes: The work of 21st century teaching is too much to fall on the back of any one teacher. We need a fluid profesison that allows different types of teachers, all well-prepared, in scaffolding a career lattice to focus collectively on the needs of students. (Teaching 2030, 108, 111).

Re-designing every aspect of the teacher profession around the needs of the students we serve; that’s the future.