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AASCU Report Maps Challenges, Priorities for Teacher Preparation

A new report from the Teacher Education Task Force of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) makes a compelling case for quality teacher preparation, capturing the key challenges that make the current context complex but also offering recommendations for both university leaders and policy makers to move the field forward.

The task force conducted a survey last year of presidents, provosts, and education deans at state colleges and universities to gauge the current state of educator preparation. (The survey results are included as an appendix to the new report.) The responses informed conversations among task force members to distill the core themes, debate their implications in light of the latest research, and determine consensus recommendations for priority actions by higher education administrators. The results were combined to craft the new report, and the AASCU policy team added a set of priorities for federal and state policy.

Task force members include president/provost-level representatives and several education deans – Katy Heyning of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Elizabeth Hinde of Metropolitan State University of Denver (CO), Tamara Lucas of Montclair State University (NJ), and Francisco Rios of Western Washington University – as well as AACTE’s Linda McKee and leaders of other education and research organizations.

The challenges identified by the task force and survey respondents span three main areas:

  • PK-12 schools are operating under acute staffing shortages, constrained budgets, and poor teacher morale due to declining autonomy and low pay amidst ever-growing expectations.
  • University-based teacher preparation programs are facing shrinking budgets, falling enrollment, challenges recruiting students for high-need fields and demographic groups, and increasing costs for teacher candidates.
  • External to both of these domains but weighing heavily on their operations, the public policy and accreditation contexts have grown more demanding, particularly in search of performance outcomes for which few reliable measures currently exist.

In light of these challenges and the clearly ongoing need for quality teacher preparation, the report recommends five priorities for university presidents and provosts:

  • Help educator preparation programs bolster clinical experiences for teacher candidates – which may require adjustments to academic calendars, student financial aid, and promotion and tenure guidelines.
  • Ensure teacher preparation programs have strong relationships with PK-12 partners – for the benefit of not only preservice candidates but also faculty, who gain currency in the realm of practice as well as an understanding of their local feeder schools.
  • Step up strategic recruitment into teacher preparation programs – especially in high-need fields and demographic areas, and tapping multiple sources, from high schools to community colleges to first-year students at their own universities.
  • Build stronger articulation agreements with community colleges – which not only are a major source of teacher candidates but also provide a critical connection to the local community.
  • Help develop strategies to professionalize teacher education – such as by uniting institutions to articulate consensus standards for curriculum and clinical practice, which would not only improve preparation but also reduce the field’s susceptibility to external critics.

For federal policy, the AASCU report offers several commendable priorities around clinical experiences, data systems, school-university partnerships, and regulatory efforts. It recommends funding university-based centers of excellence to help diversify the teacher pipeline and service-payback models such as TEACH grants to drive students to high-need schools and districts.

For states, the task force urges strong partnerships with educator preparation programs, evidence-based standards for licensure and program review, a required teacher performance assessment, and consistent standards for all providers of teacher preparation.

“AACTE is grateful to the AASCU task force for this comprehensive and timely analysis of the current environment,” said AACTE President/CEO Sharon P. Robinson. “The report provides useful insights to institutions and policy leaders looking to improve the quality of teacher preparation. AASCU’s ongoing commitment to high-quality educator preparation benefits not only state colleges and universities but the entire field.”

The report, Preparing Teachers in Today’s Challenging Context: Key Issues, Policy Directions and Implications for Leaders of AASCU Universities (PDF), was released February 4 at the AASCU Academic Affairs Winter Meeting. View the AASCU news release here.

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