Despite pockets of excellence across the country, there are far too few teacher preparation programs that provide high school teachers with the skills they need to educate all students to be college and career ready, according to a new policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education, funded by MetLife Foundation. The brief, Teaching for a New World: Preparing High School Educators to Deliver College- and Career-Ready Instruction, offers a new vision for secondary school teacher preparation and outlines how federal policy can support it.
“The job of teaching has changed, but in many cases, the preparation of teacher candidates has not,” said Alliance President Bob Wise. “Too many high school educators are walking into the classroom on their first day without the skills they need to prepare students for college and careers. And they are facing a more diverse group of learners than teachers have ever faced in this country. Until the nation transforms the way it trains teachers, too many students will continue to receive a subpar education with devastating personal and societal consequences.”
According to the brief, educating all students to the high standards now required for success in college and careers requires a host of new skills that many secondary school teachers do not currently develop during pre-service preparation or in-service professional development. “While it may not have required as much preparation for prospective high school teachers whose main responsibility was to educate the students who were already college directed, preparing all students for college and careers changes the nature of the teaching job and, therefore, how prospective teacher candidates need to be trained,” the brief reads.
Teaching for a New World identifies five critical areas for teachers to develop competency before they enter the classroom in order to be effective:
• the ability to work with diverse learners, including special education students and English language learners;
• the capacity to teach adolescent literacy skills regardless of the content area;
• the ability to effectively use assessment and data to impact teaching and learning;
• the ability to teach in specialized teaching environments, including urban and rural settings; and
• the ability to convey content knowledge to students in a clear manner, tailored to the academic discipline.
According to the brief, the federal government historically has taken on an extremely limited role with regard to pre-service teacher preparation. It acknowledges that there is a constant effort to improve and strengthen the Higher Education Act-the federal legislation that most directly affects teacher education-but points out that the provisions have focused primarily on the development of a few model programs and have been limited and weakly funded. In order to transform pre-service preparation to meet the needs of twenty-first-century students, the brief argues that the federal government must take bolder actions by truly investing in the training of teacher candidates.
Specifically, the brief says that the federal government can and should encourage the creation of performance-based assessments that fairly and accurately measure the effectiveness of individual teacher candidates as well as teacher preparation programs. It adds that the federal government should also work to increase the supply of high-quality teachers by supporting effective programs and closing ineffective programs.
Through the stimulus package, the Obama administration makes clear its commitment to developing more robust data systems that allow teacher and student information to be linked. The brief calls this commitment an “excellent first step” and states that the federal government should continue to support statewide longitudinal data systems that require teacher performance data linked to and shared with teacher preparation programs so they can track the effectiveness of their candidates and improve their pre-service preparation.
Teaching for a New World also calls for a greater focus on teacher performance instead of teacher education coursework. It notes that there is no universal standard for a candidate’s performance before becoming the teacher of record. “Just as many states have recently recognized that students will benefit from a common set of standards, so too would teacher candidates benefit from a common set of performance standards, no matter their preparation pathway,” the brief reads. It points out that the foundation is already being built by accrediting organizations as well as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in setting universal standards for master teachers.
“With standards in place for what all teachers should know and be able do, the federal government should then encourage states to closely evaluate and grant program approval to both traditional and alternative programs that ensure secondary candidates can provide their students a college- and career-ready education as well as provide funding to those models, traditional and alternative, that train teachers to be successful in the twenty-first-century classroom,” the brief reads. “Such a development would shift state program approval of all programs from inputs such as courses and competencies for teachers to the most meaningful output: the success of the teachers’ students.”
Teaching for a New World: Preparing High School Educators to Deliver College- and Career-Ready Instruction is available at here