Time To Do More Than Talk About Teacher Preparation

What Teachers Want from ESEA Reauthorization (Part 5 of 6)

We want genuine and consistent support for transformation of teacher preparation.

There’s been enough negative talk about teacher education (much of it deserved), but not nearly enough positive action. There’s been too little recognition of the changes many teacher prep programs have made and too much media hype about Teach for America or other alternate route programs that provide too little preparation for what they are asking their candidates to do. Our nation’s students, especially those in high-needs schools, need high quality teachers who know how to teach.

Teacher preparation programs have been the target of criticism for a long time. In fairness, some programs have responded to these criticisms in creative ways. Realistically, many of the most persistent problems in teacher education can only be corrected with coordinated, systemic changes that go beyond the control of deans or faculty alone.

In 2008, the Federal government for the first time put significant funding into reforming teacher education via the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants as part of Title II. In 2010, that funding was cut by a third.

I was especially glad to serve on the recent Blue Ribbon Panel convened by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and heartily endorse the recommendations we put forward for changing how we recruit, prepare, induct, license, and support those entering the teaching profession in the U.S. The panel included representatives and solicited input from all the areas needed to make this change: not only deans of education, but also local and state superintendents, college presidents, state lawmakers, local school boards, principals, veteran teachers, along with community and business groups.

Secretary Duncan greeted the report warmly, stating it “mark[ed] the most sweeping recommendations for reforming the accreditation of teacher preparation programs in the more than century-long history of our nation’s education schools.” However, the Administration’s response to this opportunity for systemic change, is yet another competitive grant, Presidential Teaching Fellows, along with the promise of streamlined reporting requirements.

The federal government should support its rhetoric about the need to transform teacher education by not shortcircuiting the first federal level program to do help do that and by supporting the recommendations of the recent NCATE Blue Ribbon Panel.