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State School Chiefs Offer 'Playbook' on Improving Teacher Preparation

Schools chiefs from more than a dozen states have compiled a new "playbook" on how to improve teacher preparation, which includes advice for states on reforming teacher licensure, evaluating preparation programs, and using data to follow teacher education graduates.

It also points out states that are models for this work. 

"We have high expectations for teachers once they get in the classroom, we should also train them in a way that enables them to reach those expectations," Chris Minnich, the executive director for the Council of Chief State School Officers, said in a Sept. 12 media call. "It's exciting to see state chiefs taking the lead on what that looks like."

CCSSO brought together a network of leaders from 15 states that have made improving teacher preparation a policy priority. "This was the promise of the network's members to future teachers: Those who invest their time, money, and dreams into becoming a teacher will be prepared in programs that will shape them into effective educators," the playbook says. 

Lessons From States

Teacher licensure—both initial and ongoing—is targeted in the report as a lever for bettering teacher preparation statewide. Licensure is "ripe for additional reform around how do we make it simpler for teachers to get licensed, but [also make sure] that the license actually means something about whether a teacher is ready for a classroom on day one," said Minnich.  

Georgia is highlighted in the report as a state that's refined its licensure process by creating four tiers: preservice, induction, professional, and advanced and lead professional. "Students and teachers benefit because the new structure recognizes the developmental needs of teachers at each stage of their career," the playbook says. "As a result, preservice teachers and veterans are now more likely to get the right support—and opportunities—at the right times."

The chiefs also looked at how teacher education programs are evaluated and approved by the state.

A 2014 Education Week analysis across the states found that teacher-preparation programs are almost never shuttered: Over a five-year period, states closed fewer than 60 subject-area or grade-level teacher-preparation programs out of an estimated 25,000. (See my colleague Stephen Sawchuk's full audit and "Teaching the Teachers" report.)

Connecticut, the CCSSO playbook points out, has linked its state approval process to that of CAEP, a national accrediting body that unveiled ambitious standards for teacher-prep programs in 2013. (CAEP has faced some stumbling blocks, including high turnover, internal divisions, and pressure from teacher colleges to revisit those standards.) Connecticut's previous approval process was seen as expensive and cumbersome, and linking the two has allowed for a more streamlined approach, the report says.

In the media call, Minnich also talked about the importance of getting data on graduates back to the teacher-preparation programs. "It's unfair for these programs to be evaluated on how their teachers are doing in the classroom if we don't give them access and information on how those teachers are doing, so they can improve," he said. 

Oklahoma is building a centralized data system to connect higher education and K-12, he pointed out, to allow for that flow of information.


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