Teacher Preparation Programs Face More Scrutiny as Common Core Era Begins

Kate Walsh  kwalsh@nctq.org National Council on Teacher Quality
Janice Riddell (203) 912-8675 janice_riddell@hks.harvard.edu External Relations, Education Next

Teacher Preparation Programs Face More Scrutiny as Common Core Era Begins

New analysis points to the importance of training and transparent assessments of teacher preparation programs as keys to improving quality

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Teacher education has faced increasing criticism in recent years, sparked by uneven student achievement across the U.S.  In a new analysis, Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), examines the extent to which teacher education has moved away from the rigors of specific training in favor of ambiguous personal and social goals that leave new teachers unprepared.  “21st-Century Teacher Education: Ed schools don’t give teachers the tools they need” will appear in the Summer issue of Education Next and is now available online at www.educationnext.org.

Walsh writes that neither the general public nor most policymakers are aware that today’s education schools tend to deemphasize practical training for the classroom.  In a 2006 volume of essays published by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), for example, training is described as a “technical transmission activity” and an “oversimplification of teaching and learning, ignoring its dynamic, social and moral aspects.”  In early reading as in other subjects, education schools have largely ignored teaching methods developed over years of research and practice, Walsh notes.

The widespread adoption of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) makes improvement in teacher training urgent.  Walsh emphasizes that better consumer education—informing aspiring teachers and school districts about the quality of programs across the nation—can play a key role in motivating institutions to “change in the direction of effective training.”  NCTQ is currently examining and rating the essential elements of teacher preparation programs based on measurable, objective criteria.  These include:

• The fundamental requirements of each teacher preparation program—admissions standards, content area course requirements, and the alignment of elementary teachers’ reading and mathematics curricula with the Common Core standards;

• The process used to determine that teacher candidates are ready for the classroom; the importance given to high quality student teaching programs that prepare teachers to manage a classroom, develop assessments, employ data to improve instruction, write a lesson plan, and differentiate instruction;

• The degree to which programs track outcomes, including evaluations and student achievement data that reflect the effectiveness of an institution’s graduates.

Changes in states’ policies also are needed to spur improvement in teacher preparation, Walsh notes.  Examples include:

• Require, as Illinois has done, that teacher preparation programs admit only students in the top half of their class, to encourage an improvement in candidate quality;

• Place teacher candidates with mentor teachers of demonstrated effectiveness, as Indiana and Tennessee require;

• Make funding of teacher preparation programs at public institutions contingent on meeting key outcomes, as 10 states do for public institutions as a whole;

• Cap the number of teaching licenses in areas of oversupply, such as elementary education, and lower tuition for high-need areas such as special education and STEM fields;

• Make on-the-ground inspections of teacher education programs rigorous and public, as the United Kingdom does, for example, and include former Pre-K-12 school leaders and teachers among the inspectors.

Strategies such as these, Walsh writes, “establish an important and unambiguous principle:  teacher education exists to serve the needs of Pre-K — 12 schools and public financial support should depend on its ability to do so.”

About the Author

Kate Walsh has served as president of the National Council on Teacher Quality since 2003.

She is available for interviews.

About Education Next

Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform.  Other sponsoring institutions are the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, part of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  For more information about Education Next, please visit:  www.educationnext.org.

For more information on the Program on Education Policy and Governance contact Antonio Wendland at 617-495-7976, pepg_administrator@hks.harvard.edu, or visit www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg.

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