“Teacher Preparation: Who Needs It?”

Without question, teacher quality is one of THE hot topics in education reform these days.  Logically, we recognize that teachers are the ones primarily responsible for boosting student achievement in the classroom.  Programs like the US Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund have thus been designed to reward those teachers whose students demonstrate success.  It is a simple equation, outcomes result in rewards.

But what about the inputs that result in that achievement?  What do teachers need to know, be able to do, and experience before they ever become a teacher of record?  Those are the sorts of questions that the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) is trying to tackle with a new series of policy briefings it launched today, titled “Teacher Preparation: Who Needs It?”

In today’s episode, AACTE offered up The Clinical Preparation of Teachers: A Policy Brief, a document that provides some of the history, the research, and the vision for how to best address clinical preparation.  Chief among the recommendations — all prospective teachers, regardless of their pathway, need at least 450 hours of clinical training (or a full semester). 

Full disclosure, Eduflack has worked with the folks over at AACTE for years.  Regardless, today’s briefing offered some interesting recommendations for the federal government, state government, and those preparing the next generation of teachers, including:

For the feds:

  • Revise the “Highly Qualified Teacher” definition within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to require that teachers must establish not only their content expertise, but their ability to teach it effectively, as measured by their actual performance in classrooms, following extended clinical experience;
  • Invest in the development of a National Teacher Performance Assessment that would parallel the development and adoption of Common Core Standards;
  • Maintain the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, with a specific clinical preparation focus, in the Higher Education Opportunity Act while increasing funding for the program;

For states:

  • Require a minimum of 450 hours, or one semester, of clinical experience during pre-service teacher preparation;
  • Ensure that all teacher preparation routes, regardless of pathway, include the same clinical preparation requirements;
  • Require a high-quality teacher performance assessment of all teacher candidates;
  • Collaborate to agree upon common clinical experience requirements;
  • Offer incentives to schools that act as clinical settings for teacher candidates;
  • Support the expansion or replication of successful teacher residency programs;

And for providers of teacher preparation:

  • Ensure school districts and universities work jointly to design and supervise strong clinical practice collaborations;
  • Provide all teacher candidates substantial and appropriate clinical preparation prior to becoming “teacher of record” in their own classrooms;
  • Train clinical teachers and other teacher mentors to help and support novice teachers;
  • Require all clinical teachers to have at least three years of teaching experience; and
  • Assist our nation’s public schools and teacher preparation programs to jointly adopt standards for newly redesigned clinically based teacher preparation programs.

As part of the formal presentation, the crowd heard from U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (RI), who is quickly becoming THE Senate voice on education in general and professional development in particular.  In his remarks, Senator Reed praised President Obama for adding funds to the Teacher Quality Partnership program as part of last year’s economic stimulus package, but took issue with Obama eliminating the program as part of his budget recommendations last month.  Reed urged all those in attendance to reach out to their Senators and Congressmen to ask that TQP be restored, as the program is essential to ensuring our colleges and universities are working toward developing the high-quality, effectiv
e teachers our schools need so badly.

With a greater and greater focus on effective, results-based instruction, the issue of teacher preparation isn’t going to go away.  Even as part of its Quality Counts study, Education Week recently highlighted those states that are leaders and laggards when it comes to the clinical experience.  Content may be king these days, but pedagogy is quickly gaining stature.    

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