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Sharon Robinson

President and CEO, AACTE

Let’s Dispel Pervasive Teacher-Quality Myths

This post also appears in the Public School Insights blog of the Learning First Alliance.

It’s an insidious message embedded in the American psyche: Those who can’t, teach. For years, report after report has banged the drum for raising admission standards into teacher preparation programs, citing international comparisons and championing cost-prohibitive recruitment policies.

In reality, the talent pool now entering teacher preparation programs is rich. Our programs are, in fact, attracting their share of high achievers—defined by any number of criteria.

‘Deans for Impact’ Brings Welcome Energy to Reform Efforts

Eighteen education deans have formed a new coalition, Deans for Impact, to engage in the ongoing and important discussion about educator effectiveness and quality evidence. This group has staked out an agenda that is congruent with AACTE’s overall goals and also echoes the professional standards being implemented by the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation.

Safeguarding Student Data Is Everyone’s Business

This post also appears on the Public School Insights blog of the Learning First Alliance.

Last week, the White House announced a new push to protect students’ digital privacy, as ever-expanding data collection efforts heighten concerns from parents and advocacy groups about appropriate uses of the data. Institutions of higher education share the administration’s priority to protect elementary and secondary students and uphold diligent safety and privacy practices in preparing teachers for the classroom. Ultimately, safeguarding student data is everyone’s business.

Will We Have Enough Teachers to Support Our Public Schools?

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?

‘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.

Breathing Room for Teacher Evaluation; Will ED Extend Approach to Teacher Prep?

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.

Engaging in Successful Change: edTPA in New York State

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.

Data Advocacy as a Professional Responsibility

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.

Statement on NCTQ Teacher Prep Review

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.

Redesigned AACTE Web Site Streamlines Design, Content

I am pleased to announce that today marks the official launch of the redesigned AACTE.org.

In service to our members and the broader educator preparation community, AACTE undertook a major overhaul of its web site over the past year. Last August, many of you responded to our request for feedback on our web site. Based on your thoughtful input, we have transformed our information-sharing platform to be a more useful, supportive asset for our ongoing collaborative work.

In a time when information is almost exclusively created, shared, and accessed electronically, it is important that our electronic information-sharing tools be technologically current, well-designed, and user friendly. This redesign of AACTE.org serves as a smart, relevant electronic business card among power players in the greater education community—and more important, as a go-to resource for members like you.

Collaboration of Professional Community Required to Address Shameful Issue of Hard-to-Staff Schools

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.

CAEP Q&A With Mary Brabeck (Video)

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.

On the Passing of Nelson Mandela

“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.

An Industry of Progress, Promise

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.

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