Redefining teacher preparation

Is America finally ready to invest in teaching? The question looms.

Is America finally ready to invest in teaching?

The question looms.

Last month, I sat in on the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York. Participants included education ministers and union leaders from high-performing nations as well as American education leaders (Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, NEA president Dennis Van Roekel, and AFT president Randi Weingarten).

Andreas Schliecher, a researcher at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), offered a compelling analysis of countries with high-performing students (and narrowing achievement gaps).  What do these countries have in common? They invest in teaching as a knowledge-based profession. Teacher preparation is serious business: top-notch recruits are paid to prepare for a teaching career.

American teacher education policy is very different—and yields poorer results for students. Our policies promote short-cut, low-quality preparation for entry into the teaching profession. There is often little connection between pre-service preparation and on-the-job support. New recruits have few incentives to receive serious training before they teach, and they are not rewarded for remaining in the classroom.

TEACHING 2030, which I co-authored with twelve accomplished teachers, presses American policymakers to invest in better teacher education for tomorrow’s students. (The image at left is taken from graphic facilitator Sunni Brown’s depiction of a recent 2030 team conversation.) Relying on classroom expertise as well as research on best practices, we developed a vision of a great teacher preparation system:

  1. Universities, school districts, and non-profits will fuse their resources to prepare future teachers;
  2. Teacher preparation will be built on a sound liberal arts education — then candidates can choose from various tracks of professional preparation, each one focusing on different roles and responsibilities;
  3. Teacher education will be cohort-based, preparing new recruits to teach as teams in high-need schools;
  4. All new teachers will complete a substantial internship in a community-based organization in order to develop deep knowledge of the context of how and where students and their families live;
  5. All new recruits for a teaching career will be expected to serve in an extensive internsh ip in a virtual teacher network, where they also learn specific skills in using multi-user virtual environments to educate students anytime, anywhere, as well as how to spread expertise among teaching colleagues;
  6. Pedagogical preparation will be built on a mixed use of live and digitally recorded “lesson studies” in which teams of candidates learn to critique teaching and assess student learning using emerging technologies;
  7. Each teacher education candidate will have a program of learning with common tasks to accomplish and performance assessments to measure when (and what) they are ready to teach.
  8. Passing performance assessments, not completing “seat time” in college courses, will determine when teachers are ready to teach independently – and in what schools and under what conditions;
  9. Teaching responsibilities (and differential compensation) will be determined on the basis of what one knows and can do as an independently practicing teacher (identified through performance assessments) and one’s proven knowledge and skills; and
  10. Schools will be redesigned for teacher learning (as in other high-performing nations) so new recruits can develop under the supervision of expert vete rans who have been specially prepared as mentors. 

This is the future of teacher education we envision — one that will ensure equity and excellence for all students. American students and schools will only be able to catch up to (and surpass) other nations’ educational systems through dramatic transformation of its teacher preparation policies. To learn more, order a copy of TEACHING 2030.