A Move to Change the Way We Teach Teachers

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning, a committee made up of some of the top educators in the country, recently released a report calling for drastic changes in the way teacher educational programs prepare their teachers for the classroom. According to The Washington Post, the panel, which consisted of government officials, the heads of some of the largest education schools, and leaders of two teachers’ unions, recommended that teacher educational programs should focus on real-world training and developing mentorship programs for young teachers if we hope to improve the state of education in this country.

The report, commissioned by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, recommends seven major changes in teacher education, including changing the reward structure for educators from a results-based system to a value-learning one, creating disincentives for teacher education programs that prepare teachers in areas not in current demand, and encouraging school districts and accreditation agencies to share more responsibility for future teachers’ qualifications. For more information, read the NCATE press release here.

Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York and co-chair of the panel said of the report’s findings that "teaching, like medicine, is a profession of practice. Making clinical preparation the centerpiece of teacher education will transform the way we prepare teachers." Traditionally, teacher education programs have focused heavily on teaching theoretical concepts and recent trends in pedagogy to their student-teachers. These programs typically provide teachers a relatively brief classroom internship before sending them on the job market. In light of that history, Zimpher’s remarks signify a dramatic shift in the educational landscape that could affect students for years to come.

So far, eight states have pledged to adjust their teacher education requirements towards meeting the recommendations of the committee. Maryland already nearly meets the standards suggested by the committee, but signed on regardless to showcase its commitment to constantly improving teacher education. Maryland Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said, "We feel we’re already implementing much of what’s recommended here." Maryland state officials have noticed that teachers with plenty of in-class experience and training remain on the job far longer than more traditionally trained teachers. Other states that have followed Maryland’s lead include California, Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee.

Reception of the report has been positive so far. Educators that are typically critical of non-traditional teacher training programs, such as Teach for America, agree that graduates from most traditional teacher training programs do not have enough in-class teaching experience to prepare them for the real-world hardships of teaching.

What remains to be seen, however, is how the alliance of those eight states actually implements the suggestions of the report. There is talk of implementing a tracking program that will monitor the careers of teachers who go through this new educational process; however, data will not be available for some time to confirm or deny the effectiveness of this new program.

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