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AFT Task Force Eyes Teacher Preparation, Again

The American Federation of Teachers has convened a task force to make recommendations on how to improve the quality of teacher preparation.

The panel first convened in January, and is expected to have its recommendations ready sometime this year. (The task force had planned to release a report in time for AFT's biennial convention in July, but its members pressed for more time to discuss and draft the report, surely a sign they have something interesting up their sleeves.)

AFT last tackled teacher preparation a little over 10 years ago, and many of the recommendations in the report it released in 2000 were prescient as to the debate teacher education would assume over the course of the next decade. For instance, that report called for increased attention to student teaching, or the "clinical" part of preparation.

There appears to have been progress on that front. For instance, we've seen much interest in hands-on teacher preparation programs, such as residencies. And the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education has also called for the clinical part of preparation to be substantially expanded and improved.

Other recommendations in the AFT's former report are only now starting to undergo scrutiny. Most striking is its call for teacher preparation programs to set a minimum-entry requirement of a 3.0 GPA. While there has been some policy interest in such a requirement, the larger debate about entry criteria (largely drawn from the selective practices of international countries) continues to be a matter of some debate among teacher educators.

The prior report also called for a national, rigorous entry test measuring college-level subject knowledge, rather than the basic-skills tests states currently administer. According to the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and advocacy organization, only the state of Texas requires a test normed to the general college-going population (see page 15 of this report.)

And the report also called for a rigorous exit test. While 25 states are in the process of developing a test that could conceivably fit that criteria, many details about how that exam will be used remain unknown.

That brings us back to the new task force. AFT officials plan to use the 2000 report as a starting point and to build on it. As always, the big question here is whether higher education will take to heart the recommendations it makes.

Below is a list of the task force's panelists.

  • Francine Lawrence, AFT executive vice president (chair)
  • Kevin Ahern, president, Syracuse Teachers Association
  • William Buxton, associate professor, SUNY Cortland
  • Arthur Hochner, president, Temple Association of University Professionals
  • Jerry Jordan, president, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT)
  • Catherine Lugg, professor, Rutgers University, Graduate School of Education
  • Marlene Morales, faculty, Miami Dade College School of Education
  • Derryn Moten, co-President, Alabama State University, culty-Staff Alliance
  • Lynn Nordgren, president, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers
  • Sandra Schroeder, president, AFT Washington, AFL-CIO
  • Brenda Smith, president, AFT Colorado and Douglas County Federation of Teachers
  • Andrew Spar, President, Volusia Teachers Organization
  • Dr. Melissa Stinnett, assistant professor, Western Illinois University, department of curriculum & instruction
  • Deborah Tully, State Ed Issues Coordinator, Ohio Federation of Teachers
  • Kenneth Zarafis, co-president, Education Austin
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