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Too much of today’s criticism of teacher education is driven by politics, not substance, and focuses on outdated issues instead of ones unique to the demands of 21st-century teaching and learning.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