Each year, our nation’s PK-12 schools rely on colleges of teacher education to prepare thousands of new teachers. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools is expected to grow from 55 to 58 million. Already, schools in high-need urban and rural areas struggle to recruit and retain enough qualified teachers, and many districts do not have sufficient special education or STEM specialists to serve student needs. Amidst these growing needs, however, enrollment in teacher preparation programs nationwide is falling, and data from AACTE’s 800 member institutions show reductions over the last decade in both undergraduate and graduate programs. What’s at the root of this worrisome decline, and how can we start to turn the tide?
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.
Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a statement responding to widespread concerns about standardized testing—saying that “testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools” and offering to delay by a year the federal requirement that teacher evaluations include some “significant” influence from students’ performance on state assessments.
On July 22, New York Commissioner of Education John King convened a task force to advise the state on its future use of edTPA, a performance assessment system for aspiring teachers that is now required for licensure in New York.
As the first state to fully implement policy requiring new teachers to pass edTPA for licensure, New York and its PK-12 educators and teacher educators have encountered a variety of operational challenges. Every state that follows New York, as well as our larger professional community, will benefit from New York’s initiative, experience, and solutions.
Consequential use of edTPA is just one of four assessment innovations rolled out in New York’s ambitious new licensing process. (Other required licensure assessments are the Educating All Students exam, Academic Literacy Skills test, and certificate-specific Content Specialty Tests.) While some of us have expressed concern about the rapid roll-out schedule, it is apparent that many candidates were indeed ready to meet the rigorous new requirements: The initial edTPA pass rate was 84%, which we find impressive and encouraging.
Once upon a time, we were challenged to find useful data about education. Not much information was collected, and it was largely inaccessible. In recent years, as public demands for greater transparency and evidence-based accountability have generated an information frenzy, we still face this challenge—but not because data are scant. Now they are overabundant, often difficult to decipher, or of unreliable quality. In this new environment, we must prepare teachers and other education leaders to be not only data literate, but also advocates for effective data use by others.
Yesterday, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its second annual Teacher Prep Review: A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Preparation Programs. Although parts of this report venture a conciliatory tone, as might be expected from NCTQ’s past reports, this review offers largely unhelpful recommendations that are based on questionable methodology.
Public Shaming—Over a Document Review
In an attempt to provide a consumer-friendly guide to teacher preparation programs, NCTQ has moved from rating institutions on a 4-star scale to ranking them numerically—a divisive tactic that mostly serves to pit institutions against one another. Notably, these rankings have as little to do with graduates’ readiness to teach as did last year’s star system.
This post was originally published on the Learning First Alliance’s Public School Insights blog.
The teaching profession is well known for losing almost 50% of its novices in the first 5 years. This churn is concentrated in high-need schools, which have a hard time attracting teachers in the first place. Not only does this “revolving door” phenomenon increase the chance that students with the greatest educational needs will be taught by an inexperienced teacher, but it is also financially costly in recruitment, staffing, and induction burdens.
When Mary Brabeck, dean of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, agreed to grant me a recorded in-person interview (see link below) regarding her new role as board chair of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), I was thrilled.
It is fair to say that I have a long-standing relationship with Mary Brabeck. In 2005, Dean Brabeck chaired the Board of AACTE when I was selected to be the president and chief executive officer.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
Today, we join the world in mourning the death and celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela. Mandela was one of the world’s greatest leaders, teachers, and champions for justice – dedicating his life to educating and advocating for freedom. Not only did he accept the insurmountable challenges he often encountered, but he also embraced them with patience and strength.
Note: This op-ed was submitted to The New York Times but was not published.
A recent column by Bill Keller in The New York Times, “An Industry of Mediocrity,” highlighted a 2005 report by the well-respected Arthur Levine that concluded that the programs that prepare our nation’s educators “range from inadequate to appalling” and set the premise that the profession is a “contended cartel” of low-quality programs that should “feel threatened.” As leaders of AACTE, we view Mr. Keller’s column not as a threat but as an opportunity to do what we do best: educate.