Recently in The 74, Kate Walsh wrote about the power of school districts to fix their own teacher pipeline, including the portion of the pipeline coming from traditional teacher preparation programs. Excerpts from the piece appear below:
A growing number of school districts are embracing the teacher residency model as a solution to their shortage of educators. Residents tend to be more diverse and more likely to persist in the profession than the teaching force as a whole. Clearly, residency programs can help some districts avoid staffing shortfalls, but a more readily available, scalable, and affordable option is already available: fixing the pipeline of prospective teachers who enter through student teaching.
Districts can exercise market power with traditional preparation programs, just as they do with residencies. The fact that they historically have not done so is the obstacle that must be overcome. There is nothing stopping a district from taking an active role in selecting the student teachers it hosts, just as it might do with a resident teacher. Districts should screen prospective student teachers for fit and commitment to pursuing a career in their schools (an essential step, as 50 percent of all candidates do not end up taking a teaching job upon graduation).
Instead of just asking for teachers to volunteer to mentor a student teacher, districts could ensure that every student teacher has a high-quality mentor by providing modest compensation to mentors and elevating their status. If districts want new teachers to be culturally competent, they need to commit to placing student teachers with mentors who will model such competence. Great teachers would be happy to accept student teachers if they had some assurance of the quality of the student teacher.
These changes in attitude and process have the power to almost immediately solve the chronic misalignment of teacher supply and demand. There would be no quicker way to persuade teacher prep programs to stop overproducing and underpreparing elementary educators than for districts to begin limiting the number of elementary student teachers they’re willing to accept.
By applying the lessons of residency programs to student teaching, districts can achieve change that is both broad and deep, not just tinkering around the edges.