In the realm of educator preparation, we are long overdue to have an honest, hard-hitting discussion among key stakeholders regarding the (low) bar that far too many teacher preparation programs have set for aspiring teachers.
All teacher preparation programs are not created equal. This is problematic since teachers are the greatest school-related factor in driving student academic outcomes.
Stanford Professor of Education Emeritus and Learning Policy Institute CEO, Linda Darling-Hammond, identified the necessary core elements in educator preparation programs across the United States in her widely-cited, 2014 study, Strengthening Clinical Preparation: The Holy Grail of Teacher Education. These elements generally included: extended clinical teaching experiences for pre-service teaching candidates; integration and alignment of coursework with clinical experiences; and, extensive use of candidates’ performance assessments and portfolio evaluations to monitor progress, growth, and development throughout the program. The study’s findings overwhelmingly showed that graduates from programs with these elements were extraordinarily well prepared as beginning teachers assuming control of their own classrooms.
In addition to the aforementioned study, Darling-Hammond and other teacher preparation researchers have more recently highlighted the clear connection between pairing high quality mentor teachers with pre-service teachers during their program, with the quality of teaching eventually provided by the pre-service teachers. Several of these peer review studies were referenced in a July 2018 Chalkbeat article – and indicated student teachers with effective mentor teachers feel better prepared to enter the classroom, have better observational scores, and, produce students with higher achievement rates.
In a state like Texas, where there are multiple pathways for aspiring teachers to earn their teaching certification – we strongly encourage teacher candidates evaluate each program’s elements, since a good program should display the core elements that are so soundly linked to a teacher’s eventual success.
Therefore, when investigating different teacher preparation programs aspiring teachers should ask programs targeted questions to understand whether these critical elements exist, including whether the program includes robust clinical experience(s), and whether there exists a mentor/cooperating teacher component during their pre-service experience, and to what degree.
Educator preparation programs without the features of research-backed methodologies, nor conscious feedback mechanisms do a great disservice not just to aspiring teachers, but to the students those teachers will ultimately serve.
We are encouraged that this message is also being championed at a national level by partner organizations such as National Center for Teacher Residencies and Deans for Impact, and locally, throughout the North Texas region by our friends at Best in Class – a local initiative focused on increasing access to well-prepared, effective, diverse educators so that a greater proportion of our region’s students can be on track for college and career success.
All teacher preparation programs are not created equal. The time to elevate the dialogue around quality teacher preparation is now – our highest need students are depending on it.