Preparing educators to prepare our children for the future


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.

Reader Comments

  1. Teacher prep should be improved, yes, but the profession should be elevated in the eyes of society, too, with things like a better professional salary, and being respected for the professionals we are, like doctors and lawyers are respected. Otherwise we will continue to see a decline in people wanting to become teachers.

  2. Well said Teresa, you touched on the numerous challenges that teachers face today. Our students are no longer well-rounded, they are not getting the needed experiences (art, music, PE, etc.) to “think outside the box.”

  3. I am appalled that our organization appears to think that it OK to hold hearings, about things which rightly should include maximum input from practitioners in the trenches, without direct input from teachers. That we wrote a letter, or letters, is not in any way equivalent. This underscores the lack of respect certain members of our citizenry hold for teachers, that they believe they can “fix” our higher education preparation without involving us! No, NEA, we should not take this sitting down.

  4. The real problem here is that lawmakers were trying to “improve teacher preparation and strengthen the teaching profession” and no current teachers were called on to testify!

  5. I thought it was the job of colleges and universities to prepare future teachers, not the government! Teacher Certification is now required. Then this means an Education Diploma is meaningless. Why do students pay thousands of dollars to universities?
    I will say that no one should be a college professor if they have never taught in an elementary, jr. high, or high school classroom for a minimum of 5 years. Government mandates have stifled learning and creativity in the classroom. Many young teachers just hand out worksheets and teach the test! Absurd! The media compares our education to the rest of the world but fails to mention how our system is so different. We have mainstreaming with 30+ students in one classroom. Many schools no longer have art, music, p.e., and real libraries with real librarians. . .no cursive (too hard for our students. . .really?) . . .no geography. . .inaccurate history books, etc. Why is algebra important to a second grader when he cannot grasp math fundamentals? Why does it take 6 weeks to teach about how a cell develops . . .to a third grader? Not everyone is interested in math or science! We need to have well-rounded students coming out of our schools. They need to have a good understanding of the basics.

  6. Congress holds a hearing focused on “improving teacher preparation and strengthening the teaching profession” and no “current teachers or education support professionals were called to testify”. Teachers are represented by a letter sent to members of various committees.
    While the points in the article may be sound educational ideas, shouldn’t we be concerned about more federal regulation of public education?
    After NCLB & RTTT when will we learn our lesson. What’s that saying? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . .” What does it say about the third time?

    1. It’s the job of colleges to develop excellent teacher certification programs. After having gone through the program at my local CA university, it didn’t take long to realize that the preparation wasn’t enough ! And I was a top student in the program! Later as an administrator, I worked with student teachers at my site The current programs are still inadequate and far too short. There are states where teacher certification begins the first year of college and education is a declared major. On year of courses and part time practice in a classroom is not enough.

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