Tired of Re-runs? Let’s Get To Solutions in Teacher Preparation

Although I’m still reading through the latest report on teacher education programs in the U.S., so far it’s been old news and questionable research. Criticisms of teacher prep are not new; in fact, most of the ones leveled in this new (?) report have been highlighted before, most notably by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships commissioned by the major teacher education accrediting body, NCATE (now CAEP) a few years ago.

If anything, the recent report is weaker than the earlier one because the Blue Ribbon Panel included representatives from all of the stakeholders involved in teacher preparation, and exposed that many of the problems with how our country recruits, prepares, and supports new teachers are not just the fault of the university-based programs.

Good example: The NCTQ report lists as one of its findings here in my state (Mississippi) the following:

Student teaching — Of the evaluated elementary and secondary programs in Mississippi, 48 percent entirely fail to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, in which candidates are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and receive frequent concrete feedback. 71 percent of programs across the country failed this standard.

What was not included there is acknowledgement of a critical fact: It is not within the power of most teacher preparation programs to decide which teachers get to work with the teacher candidates sent into the schools. That decision belongs to the district/school leadership. The Blue Ribbon report, which included school administrators from the state and local levels, highlighted that problem and urged a shared responsibility for developing better criteria for mentor teachers and improved feedback for candidates.

Rather than continually plowing the familiar old ground of what’s wrong with teacher education (and still getting some of those facts wrong), wouldn’t it be a better use of our energies to start moving on real solutions?  That’s the discussion some of us here in the CTQ Collaboratory envisioned when we talked about how we, as teacher leaders, would re-design teacher preparation.

In his introduction to our report, Teaching 2030: Leveraging Teacher Preparation 2.0CTQ’s Barnett Berry noted our unique contribution:

Too much of today’s criticism of teacher education is driven by politics, not substance, and focuses on outdated issues instead of ones unique to the demands of 21st-century teaching and learning. Teacher preparation of today and tomorrow needs 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 this report, written by educators who work with students every day.

The result of that year-long inquiry I urge you to read and share with those who can actually make the changes we need

  • SusanGraham

    Building a better teacher.

    It is impressive to collect and analyze the data about teaching and learning. It’s informative to use that data  to indentify problems and analyze trends. Developing theoritical soutions is a lot harder. Implementing those solutions can be a Herculean task that involves getting layers of federal, state, local, universities, university departments, local schools, unversity and school faculty, and teacher candidates to work cohesively.

    Let’s acknowledge::

    • The problem is complex.
    • Policy for teacher education has been inconsistent and continues to be erratic.
    • There are economic factors beyond the control of teacher education programs..
    • The denigration and lack of support has not helped feed the “pipeline” for career teachers.
    • There are a lot of agendas out there

    Teacher prep needs to be better and it needs standards. Where policymakers seem to have just noticed, there has been an effort through NCATE and TEAC (now combined into CAEP) to provide tools and processes for objective assessment of performance. But that process has been voluntary. 

    It shouldn’t be rocket sciene to recongize that P-12 practitioners need to be partners in preparing their future colleagues. But that too, has pretty much been a volunteer process and when one’s income is tied to student test scores, the added responsibility of supervision holds little appeal. And when teacher prep program is judged by the test scores of the students of their graduates, there is a strong disincentive to place those graduates in high need schools.

    Some would continue to argue as to whether teaching is a skill or an art. That’s a strawman. Is medicine or law or engirneering or architecture all one or the other? No. I would argue that a  true profession is an art  expressed through skills that are informed by a knowledge and practiced with a combination of discernment and ingenuity.

    We are going to have to work together on this process. Let experts collect data. Let teacher educators provide knowledge based on that data. Let practitioners guide skill development. Let candidates develop their own discernment under careful supervision of field experience.

  • ReneeMoore

    On Accreditation

    One of the recommendations that has been made to improve teacher ed is that accreditation should be mandatory for all programs (including alternate routes). At least that way there would be some monitoring of what’s going on across programs. 

    I keep pointing back to the Blue Ribbon Panel report because it was the most comprehensive attempt to address the complexity of how to improve teacher education. The panel included state superintendents, local school board members, university provosts, teacher ed leaders, classroom teachers (2 of us anyway), union leaders, researchers, educational entrepreneurs, even representation of parents and state lawmakers. That’s exactly the cross-section it will take to implement substantive changes in how we prepare teachers. 

    • SusanGraham

      A little Q&A for Generation X and the Millenials

      I keep thinking about this an I know my own positions, but I acknowledge that  my perspective is that of a traditionally prepared teacher who did that preparation way backk in the day. So I’m wondering what other teachers think, especially some of those who are relatively fresh entrants to the profession. I’d like to hear what they  might respond to these questions:

      • Did youfeel adequately prepared?
      • What preparation experiences inspired confidence? 
      • If you had a cooperating teacher during your field experience, did you feel that teacher had been adequately prepared to support an emergent teacher?
      • What did you discover during your first two months of teaching that no told  to expect?
      • If you had to do again, would you choose the same prep program?
      • If the program that prepared you to teach asked, “What should we be doing differently?”, what would you tell them?