States Adjusting Teacher Training Programs to Boost Quality

Programs that train teachers are undergoing overhauls in a number of states as officials focus more on instructional quality, Adrienne Lu of Stateline reports — and one of the most popular changes is to provide future teachers with more practice time in the classroom prior to graduation.

A new law recently signed by Delaware Governor Jack Markell mandates at least 10 weeks of in-classroom practice for all teacher candidates. In addition, to encourage more accountability by teacher training programs, the measure also requires that schools report on the performance and effectiveness of their graduates.

Connecticut, Indiana, Colorado, Ohio and North Carolina have adopted similar requirements in the past 24 months.

According to many researchers, teacher quality is the single most important factor inside a school in student achievement. “In Delaware, our new law raises the bar for admissions to teacher preparation programs and improves training through high-quality student teaching experiences and specific math and literacy instruction for prospective elementary school teachers,” said Markell, a Democrat.

States have long possessed powerful tools to ensure that teachers are adequately trained: They are responsible for licensing teachers, and they must approve any teacher preparation program that operates within their borders. Many also have the power to decide admission standards and regulate program requirements for schools of teacher education.

As Lu explains, until the education reform movement focused more on teacher quality, states weren’t inclined to flex their muscle to make sure that teacher training programs actually graduated quality instructors who would succeed in the classroom. However, with federal education money being increasingly tied to student performance, state lawmakers simply can’t afford to ignore that aspect of their education systems any longer.

Janice Poda, chief of the Education Workforce program for the Council of Chief State School Officers, says that scrutiny of the teacher training pipeline was a natural development of the drive to look at teacher performance in terms of their students’ academic achievement. Simply put, if states wanted their students to perform better, they needed to make sure that they provided their schools with qualified teachers.

The issue also has attracted attention from national groups. The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and the National Association of System Heads announced July 11 that they will work together to improve the preparation and professional development of teachers and school leaders. The groups said their “initial focus will be on leveraging state and system approaches to change, with a focus on sharing effective practices and developing mechanisms for states and systems to advance positive changes.”

And last month, the National Council on Teacher Quality published a controversial report on teacher preparation programs at more than 1,130 colleges and universities around the country. The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group concluded that teacher preparation education has “become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity.”

07 16, 2013
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