Renée A. Middleton
This op-ed originally appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer and on Cincinnati.com. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
Brown v. Board of Education, one of the most iconic cases in U.S. history, recently celebrated its 64th anniversary, serving as a reminder of battles waged and battles won. It also served, sadly, as a reminder of progress made and progress yet to be achieved.
AACTE members are committed to high research standards and to producing scholarship that contributes to educational practice. Although the complexity of educator preparation presents a vast spectrum of subjects for scholarly inquiry, I’d like to highlight the importance and timeliness of studying those related to one particular domain: clinical practice. In fact, the new report of AACTE’s Clinical Practice Commission (CPC) unearths a fertile field of opportunities for research that is both rigorous and relevant.
Last month, the CPC hosted a briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, where it offered a thorough conceptual framework and explanation of clinical practice, along with recommendations for implementation. The report released at the event, A Pivot Toward Clinical Practice, Its Lexicon, and the Renewal of Educator Preparation, sets forth 10 proclamations for effective clinical preparation, thus signaling that AACTE is “intentionally committed to a bold voice” in teacher education.
One of AACTE’s most important goals is to support members in preparing educators for highly diverse schools. Teachers must work with students from different racial, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as students with varying abilities – and varying command of the English language. The notion that educators will only teach one type of student from one type of background is as antiquated as reruns of Leave It to Beaver. Thus, AACTE members are committed to ensuring that teacher candidates will be successful with all of their students.
Teachers, however, cannot do this alone. They need our help, and they need the help of policy makers and key stakeholders within their states, cities, and school districts.
As AACTE Board Chair, I am most appreciative of the diligent work the AACTE Board of Directors has conducted over the past few years to address the important issue of national accreditation for educator preparation. From the liaison work and member conversations led by the Board’s special subcommittee and AACTE leaders starting in 2015 to our most recent Board meeting on January 18, 2018, we have dedicated much attention to this important topic. AACTE published a statement today about this month’s Board vote reaffirming our support for national professional accreditation.
National accreditation assures the public of the highest quality preparation of educators who serve all levels of the PK-20 continuum. A unified national accreditation system brings together partners and stakeholders across the entire education profession to support profession-wide standards of excellence. I use the term “system” to convey an assemblage of related stakeholders forming an interconnecting network around a set of standards, principles, practices, and processes as a unitary whole. In our recent vote, the AACTE Board reaffirmed the importance of a unified national professional accreditation system that aligns with AACTE’s “Principles for National Accreditation in Educator Preparation,” which we approved in 2016, as critical to advancing our profession.
As AACTE Board Chair, I have shared and reflected monthly on several of our AACTE core values. This month, I would like to focus on one of our most important core values: professionalism.
This value calls for AACTE members to prepare teacher candidates to be not only successful educators, but also members of the larger professional community. Candidates should graduate from their programs with a clear understanding of the ethical responsibilities of being an educator and be equipped to contribute to the greater good in communities, school districts, and society.
The evolution of a teacher candidate into a professional educator does not occur overnight. Rather, it is a slow, steady, empowering journey that unfolds over several years, with teacher candidates receiving support and encouragement from mentor teachers and university faculty alike. Through it all, teacher candidates learn just as many lessons as they teach, ideally with one overarching principle repeatedly impressed upon them: that they must serve all learners.
This is no small task, as today’s educators enter increasingly diverse schools. This diversity creates wonderful learning opportunities for all, but it also presents its fair share of challenges. Teachers will encounter students with disabilities. They will encounter students who are gifted and talented. They will encounter students from low-income families. They will encounter students from various racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as students who do not speak English as a first language.
Since 2014, AACTE has featured the innovative work of several member institutions, including Ohio University in 2016, in its Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series highlighting clinical teacher preparation and partnerships. The video interviews in this series provide advice and examples for other schools of education looking to adopt a more clinically based model to advance high-quality learning. A commitment to high-quality learning is a core value of AACTE, both on members’ campuses and in PK-12 classrooms.
Teacher candidates, like everyone else, learn best when they take an active rather than passive role in their education, and clinical preparation empowers them to engage actively. In addition to building candidates’ professional skills and pedagogical content knowledge, many clinical experiences fully embed interns in the host school’s community and cocurricular activities. This practice helps develop confident, engaged teachers who are skilled advocates for effective teaching and learning in their communities.
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
As educators, we are responsible for preparing students for life after graduation. Thus, many of our debates focus on optimizing the student experience: things we should do – or not do – to create a well-rounded individual who is ready to take on his or her next challenge, whether it’s a job, college, or the sixth grade. Far too often, however, we focus entirely on the people who sit in classrooms and neglect the people who stand in front of them. Educational policies must make sense for students, yes, but they must make sense for teachers, too.
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
In certain circles, it is popular to view colleges and universities as the embodiment of an intolerant “education establishment” driven more by liberal ideology than by valued learning experiences. Particularly with the recent leadership transition in Washington, DC, espousers of this view have grown bolder in their accusations of brainwashing and progressive elitism in higher education. These claims are frustrating in that they betray a lack of familiarity with the mission of our institutions, but they are also dangerous: if used to erode public support for higher education, they will further impede access by those most in need.
While we welcome constructive criticism of our work, statements that delegitimize higher education are counterproductive and must be challenged. When officials suggest that professors are deviously indoctrinating students with a limited, biased, and distorted set of beliefs, such intimation is demeaning to faculty and students alike. And after 35 years in higher education, I can attest to the utter falseness of this assumption.
The education budget released by the White House this week would have devastating consequences for public schools and millions of students nationwide. Standing up for these students by advocating for federal funding must be a critical focus for participants in AACTE’s Washington Week in June.
The president wants to cut $9.2 billion of funding for federal education initiatives such as college work-study programs and public-service loan forgiveness. Overall, his budget would cut, gut, or eliminate nearly two dozen programs, including after-school initiatives that help upwards of 1.6 million students, most of whom attend low-resource schools. In addition, this budget does not provide funding for mental-health services, anti-bullying efforts, physical education, or Advanced Placement courses—not to mention Teacher Quality Partnership grants or other key teacher-quality programs.