Revamping Teacher Preparation and Licensure

Hard on the heels of the AFT’s proposed for a “bar exam” for teachers (which I wrote about here), the Council of Chief State School Officers has come forth with a sober, comprehensive, and exceptionally well-thought-out set of recommendations for fundamentally revamping the preparation and licensure of both teachers and principals. This 38-page blueprint contains ten big recommendations that, if put into practice by states, would indeed be transformative.

Cast in straightforward, non-rabble-rousing language, the report in some respects doesn’t go as far as it could. It does not, for example, do away with state-level certification of educators on grounds that research has found no link between such credentials and actual effectiveness. But it does seek to make certification meaningful by building exacting standards into the process, standards that rely on evidence of knowledge and performance rather than a checklist of courses taken. Also tucked in the recommendations are such bold ideas as serious acceptance of alternative pathways and “residency”-style preparation; insistence on real standards for entering prep programs and getting certified; the demand that prep programs respond to K–12 education’s actual supply-demand numbers rather than enrolling as many people as possible (thus probably killing the proverbial ed-school “cash cow” within universities); and tracking the performance of those emerging from various prep programs and institutions—and actually closing those that don’t produce successful professionals.

Underlying all this is the fact that states have plenty of leverage that could be used to boost the quality and effectiveness of the education workforce and most of them haven’t been using much of it. Of course they should. And this proposal shows how.

-Chester E. Finn, Jr.

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