by Brian Washington
Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing this week that every student, parent, and educator should know about. It focused on improving teacher preparation and strengthening the teaching profession—moves that, if successfully achieved, could bring this nation significantly closer to every student receiving a quality public education.
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And although no current teachers or education support professionals were called to testify, their voices were still heard. The National Education Association, which represents 3-million educators nationwide, sent a letter to members of the various committees sponsoring the hearing outlining what its members believe are the necessary steps to ensuring that educators entering the classroom are qualified and well-trained. According to Mary Kusler, the Director of NEA Government Relations, teachers should be “profession-ready” from day-one.
“Before becoming a teacher-of-record, teacher candidates should be required to demonstrate that they have the skills and knowledge necessary for effective classroom practice,” stated Kusler in her letter to Members of Congress. “While teachers continue to learn and grow after entering the profession, no candidate should ever be called a ‘teacher’ without demonstrating the ability to improve student learning.”
Kusler also outlined what it means to be profession-ready. If an educator is profession-ready, he or she has:
- Taken advantage of extensive opportunities to develop and learn teaching and basic classroom management skills;
- Demonstrated the ability to plan and deliver instruction to students with different learning styles, and also to assess and support student learning;
- Worked with accomplished educators to understand the value of collaboration and reflection; and
- Learned firsthand the importance of home-school connections.
Those who did testify at the hearing echoed similar sentiments. Christina Hall, co-founder and co-director of the Urban Teacher Center, told lawmakers that classroom experiences are an important ingredient to any teacher-prep program.
We’d like to see all teacher education programs include classroom performance and student learning outcomes in their certification recommendation process. With the stakes so high for students, there is really no excuse for certifying teachers unless we know they are capable of teaching effectively.
Heather G. Peske, Ph.D., with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said that local schools and districts must be more invested.
“Investing local schools and districts in educator preparation is critical to supporting the kinds of innovations that will ensure candidates are well-prepared to hit the ground running after they complete the programs,” said Dr. Peske.
With the Higher Education Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) both up for reauthorization, educators are hoping this week’s hearing will help jumpstart an ongoing discussion about teacher preparation—one that should include an opportunity for current classroom teachers and education support professionals to give their insights.