‘Building Better Teachers’: Advances in Teacher Preparation

What will it take to build a better teacher? That’s the question that was recently discussed in a PBS NewsHour report featuring Elizabeth Green, cofounder and CEO of Chalkbeat and author of the new book Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (And How to Teach It to Everyone).

In her book, Green explores the qualities and experiences that impact a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom, underscoring one of the most important factors in performance: their preparation. She emphasizes that effective teaching requires not only intellect, but also a strong set of skills developed through rigorous instruction and clinical experience. Green’s book pierces through the complexities surrounding program quality to ask fundamental questions about how teachers become great and how schools of education can best support that process.

AACTE, with its more than 800 member institutions, recognizes the value of equipping teacher candidates with the tools they need to be successful in the classroom. And we appreciate the spotlight Green is shining on the cutting-edge developments in the field of teacher preparation. She highlights several programs at AACTE member institutions as model examples, including TeachingWorks at the University of Michigan where the motto is “Great teachers aren’t born. They’re taught.”

Indeed, schools of education nationwide are innovating on a grand scale. In just the past 5 years, for example, hundreds of institutions have begun using performance measures such as edTPA that provide concrete evidence of their candidates’ ability to actually teach. The field’s recently updated standards for professional accreditation require high-quality clinical practice to be central to preparation programs. Further, working with PK-12 partners, faculty are helping teacher candidates acquire and strengthen the instructional skills they need for success in the classroom. The U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Quality Partnership grants, reissued last week to 24 grantees—most of which are AACTE members—are one high-profile and valuable catalyst pushing education faculty to engage in meaningful reform.

In programs around the country, teacher educators have been rolling up their shirtsleeves to redesign training and evaluation methods to boost novices’ effectiveness. For instance, at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, as part of the school’s innovative coteaching model, teacher candidates gain valuable classroom experience by working side-by-side with a veteran teacher to strengthen their skills. At Georgia State University, students enrolled in math and science teaching programs—two of the hardest-to-staff subject areas—take part in a residency program where they spend a full year in the classroom with a mentor teacher building their expertise. And at Montclair State University in New Jersey, faculty use research-based methods to help participants in their Urban Teacher Residency make vital connections between theory and practice.

AACTE is dedicated to advancing the quality of teacher preparation across the sector and welcomes dialogue with current and future teachers, leaders in the field, the public, and media to discuss how best to continue improving the preparation of our nation’s teachers. Our future educators deserve the best preparation and support we can give them.

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Sharon Robinson

President and CEO, AACTE

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