Improving Teacher Preparation

AIRWith an estimated 1.5 million new teachers entering schools over the next decade, what can policymakers do to ensure that the next generation of teachers is ready to teach on day one? A new brief released by the Education Policy Center at American Institutes for Research (AIR), A Million New Teachers Are Coming: Will They Be Ready to Teach? offers four evidence-based options for a fresh look at improving teacher preparation, a necessity that more and more education professionals are demanding.

  1. Get smart about selection

AIR suggests first that teacher preparation programs become more selective in admissions, for example by requiring increased academic proficiency as measured by both test scores and GPA. Second, AIR recommends requiring the quality of grit. Teacher preparation schools and programs should attempt to evaluate the grit that candidates already possess as well as teach them skills for persistence. Teachers with grit have been proven to last longer in their career as well as boost student performance.

  1. Define common knowledge and competencies for new teachers

Most other professions have at some point come together and created a comprehensive set of required courses that encompass what all new practitioners in that field need to know to be successful. The teaching profession has not done this, to its detriment. Some of this could be accomplished at the state licensing level by not accrediting programs that do not require their students to study certain subjects. It could also be accomplished by current professionals coming together to agree on standards.

  1. Reinvent student teaching

There are already some excellent models for student teaching, such as ones that are fully integrated with K-12 schools or ones that use technology to allow teaching candidates to watch dozens of master teachers in action over a period of time. AIR hopes that states and programs will increase the rigor of student teaching programs and be creative in connecting with already existing educational opportunities for prospective teachers.

  1. Make licensure matter

Again, similar to other professions, the teaching professions needs rigorous assessments for its teacher candidates. The tests that currently exist do not do enough to ensure that new teachers are ready for their classrooms. In addition, certification bands (e.g., K-8) can often be so broad that it is difficult for assessments to measure crucial teaching skills for all covered age levels. Finally, teaching candidates can be required to submit video of themselves teaching before certification. Certain states are already moving in the direction of performance assessment, and this is a positive sign that new teachers are being required to do more than simply do well on a test.

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