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Panel: Teacher Prep. Needs Major Restructuring

Teacher preparation needs to be organized in such a way that student-teaching and other "clinical" experiences in schools are prioritized, with coursework and other requirements embedded in and supplementing the on-the-job work, according to a report issued this morning by a high-powered panel of teacher-educators, teacher-quality experts, policymakers, and practitioners.

Such "sweeping changes," the report says, means the whole field of teacher education needs nothing less than a top-to-bottom restructuring, the report says.

The panel was convened earlier this year by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, a group that accredits about half the nation's ed. schools.

Among its recommendations, the report says that school districts need to be much more involved in teacher preparation, investing in partnership with local education schools to design programs that prepare teachers in response to the district's circumstances and with an eye on student learning.

In its recommendations, the report touches on a lot of hot-button issues. It says, for instance, that increased accountability for programs that prepare teachers should include consideration of test scores among other factors. That's been the subject of intense debate and controversy with respect to teacher evaluations.

Obliquely, the report also raises the question of whether the incentive system in higher education works at cross-purposes to close supervision of teacher-candidates in schools. That's an important consideration, because presumably, a leaner, more slimmed-down amount of coursework would require institutions to rethink what they value from their teacher-educators. That could be a big lift indeed, especially at research universities where publishing is given the lion's share of attention come tenure time.

As the report states, higher ed. institutions "will need to shift their reward structure to value work in schools by including clinical faculty lines in promotion and tenure requirements."

According to the group, eight states—Calif., Colo., La., Md., N.Y., Ohio, Ore., and Tenn.—have signed "letters of intent" to move to this kind of preparation model. They'll be working as part of an alliance to scale up these approaches. It's not clear, though, what such a commitment actually entails at this point.

In the meantime, some programs have already put a heavy emphasis on student-teaching. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education profiled some of them earlier this year in a volume. But the report released this morning acknowledges that such programming is "not the norm" in schools of education.

Teacher Beat's final thought: There have been an awful lot of these kinds of reports in the past. The million-dollar question for NCATE, and for all the panelists engaged in this work, is to prove that this is really going to gain traction in the teacher-prep world as a whole. The obstacles are many; Higher ed. institutions, (not just their colleges of education), are generally notoriously change-adverse. We'll be watching the fallout with interest.

Stay tuned for a longer story shortly at edweek.org.

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