NCSL Report Recommends State Actions to Improve Education

At the recent National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit, the organization’s International Education Study Group released the report No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State. This report culminates a 2-year study by a bipartisan group of state legislators and legislative staff examining the highest performing countries on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to discover common themes across their policies and practices.

Concluding that most U.S. states’ education systems are “falling dangerously behind the world,” the NCSL report identifies several elements needed to create “world-class” systems, including–

  • Creating a teaching profession that supports high-quality instruction and where every student has access to highly effective teachers
  • Increasing rigor and selectivity for educator preparation programs
  • Providing better pay and working conditions for teachers

In fact, many of the goals and components proposed by the study group match those of the teacher preparation field. Just recently, AACTE’s Advisory Council of State Representatives (ACSR) issued a set of policy priorities that offer guidance to state policy makers on these and other topics affecting educator preparation. These state policy statements represent the consensus of more than 1,100 educator preparation providers (EPPs) from AACTE’s 45 state chapters on three issues: respect for educators as professionals, strengthening the educator pipeline, and improving data systems.

Creating a Teaching Profession to Provide High-Quality Instruction for All Students

AACTE and EPPs have long supported the professionalization of teaching. The new ACSR policy statements call on state policy makers to respect this professional status by tapping the expertise of (and collaborating with) teachers and teacher educators. For example, ACSR recommends that policy makers–

  • Consult teacher educators when policies regarding the teaching profession are being discussed, developed, and finalized.
  • Include representatives of EPPs in conversations related to implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
  • Include teacher educators on state boards, task forces, committees, and hearings.

In support of high-quality instruction and equitable access to effective teachers, ACSR recommends that state policy makers–

  • Require all teachers of record to have completed an accredited, professional preparation program.
  • Hold all programs and pathways that prepare teachers to clear, consistent, and high standards, professional program reviews, and transparency expectations.
  • Require all candidates who complete these programs and pathways to meet equally high expectations to enter the field.

Increasing Rigor, Selectivity in Teacher Preparation

The NCSL report praises top-performing countries’ rigorous criteria for entering the profession. AACTE agrees with the need for high quality in educator preparation, which is defined and measured through a variety of requirements and processes. For example, according to data collected under Title II of the Higher Education Act, programs already have higher entry and exit criteria than commonly understood:

  • The median GPA for entry into teacher preparation at the nation’s 1,323 “traditional” (higher-education-based) EPPs averages 3.29, far exceeding the minimum required entry GPA of 2.65.
  • For graduate-level preparation, traditional EPPs average a median entry GPA of 3.33, compared to a required minimum entry GPA of 2.80.
  • Both undergraduate and graduate-level providers report a broad set of admissions criteria including the prospective teacher’s subject area, high school transcript, GPA, test scores, essays, interviews, recommendations, and fingerprint and background checks.
  • Traditional EPPs also have robust completion criteria–averaging 7.9 requirements, whereas alternative EPPs average 3.3 exit requirements.

Improving Pay, Working Conditions

Boosting teachers’ pay and working conditions could both attract and retain greater numbers of top teachers, and the ACSR statements call on state policy makers to address this key issue. Important policy topics to consider include how to improve salary structures, professional development, leadership opportunities, and overall working conditions to make teaching a more attractive profession.

Moving Forward

The NCSL report also notes the uneven availability of robust clinical practice in U.S. educator preparation, and it reflects the often-conflicting definitions of even commonly used terms. To help alleviate the misconceptions brought on by these inconsistencies and to help promote high-quality clinical preparation, AACTE is sponsoring a Clinical Practice Commission, building on the work of the 2010 NCATE Blue Ribbon Panel that forged important ground on the same topic. AACTE’s commission aims to provide recommendations to define clinical practice, a lexicon for its use, and support for the local implementation of clinical practice.

The NCSL study group will continue to meet in the coming year to develop and implement comprehensive changes in its members’ state education systems. This window of time represents an important opportunity for you to contact your state legislators to share your programs’ admission and exit requirements, clinical practice offerings, and more. Be sure to make use of the ACSR state policy statements as a framework for your conversations with state policy makers (AACTE has also provided a template document that you can customize).

For more information or questions on AACTE’s state relations work, please contact me at agoldstein@aacte.org.

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Aaron Goldstein

Manager, State Policy & Relations

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