Time for teachers to prepare their future colleagues

The 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll results reveal that the American public wants to “make teaching more professional.” If we trust and have confidence in teachers to work with our children, why wouldn’t we trust those same practitioners to prepare their future colleagues?

 

The American public wants to “make teaching more professional.” That’s what the 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll reveals—in line with poll results for many previous years. This year, almost two-thirds of public school parents report they have “trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching children in the public schools.” A similar proportion say that teacher salaries are too low.

And nearly three in four Americans believe that should teachers should earn “board certification” — much like doctors and lawyers — before entering the classroom.

Yeesh. If these Americans knew how policy makers continue to allow shortcuts into the teaching profession and how the USDOE has “backtracked” on ensuring all students have access to highly qualified teachers, they would not be happy. And judging by the results of the PDK/Gallup poll, these respondents likely would turn to teachers to transform their own profession.

The media often portrays teacher education as an “industry of mediocrity.” No doubt, many of the 1,200 universities that prepare teachers are not up to par. But neither are the vast majority of alternative programs that school reformers tout.

Both preparation tracks typically prepare teachers on the cheap. After all, the same policy makers who criticize education schools often starve then financially, or at least produce as many teachers for their universities as possible at the lowest costs. And alternative programs often tout their own “efficiency” — but do little to prepare teachers for 21st-century teaching as well as leading.

But the lack of investment means universities and alternative programs rarely execute what researchers have found to be key components of effective teacher education. Few teacher candidates complete an extensive and well-supervised student teaching (clinical) experience related to the first- year teaching assignment. Candidates lack opportunities to engage in the actual practices involved in teaching under the mentorship of expert teachers. And programs do not typically include a capstone experience in which action research or data-focused portfolios are used to make summative judgments about the quality of the new recruits.  More education schools include these components in their teacher training programs than the media and DC-based think tanks suggest.

Requiring this type of professional preparation would require a greater investment in teachers and commitment to the excellence of the profession— much like one finds in top-performing nations like Singapore and Finland.

More than 11 years ago, former IBM chairman Lou Gerstner spoke to these issues on behalf of the Teaching Commission, exhorting that America cannot continue to treat teaching as a second-rate occupation. In 2004, he called for an additional $30 billion annually to be spent on teacher pay.

What if policy makers today took Mr. Gerstner seriously? What if they invested in teacher pay as well as preparation? What if they fully vested universities, school districts, and nonprofits to capitalize on certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards?

Imagine, for example, what would be possible if the nation’s National Board Certified Teachers (more than 110,000 and counting) were offered powerful opportunities to continue teaching K-12 students regularly while also serving in joint appointments with university faculties. Who, after all, is better suited than our nation’s accomplished teachers — including CTQ Collaboratory members like Renee Moore, Jessica Cuthbertson, and Noah Zeichner — to prepare teaching recruits for our schools?

We would not even need Mr. Gerstner’s $30 billion proposal to take this idea to scale.

Judging from the PDK/Gallup Poll, it’s a safe bet that voters would get behind such an effort. After all, if we trust and have confidence in teachers to work with our children, why wouldn’t we trust those same practitioners to prepare their future colleagues? And I have a few ideas about what questions PDK/Gallup might ask of the American public next year.

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