By Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)
"Writing the Next Chapter," "Providing a Learning Journey for All," and "Embracing the Future" — these are taglines from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education's (AACTE) 2011, 2012 and 2013 Annual Meetings. To me, though, they are more than just taglines. They articulate priorities for the 800 college- and university-based educator preparation programs that hold AACTE membership. They are the overarching ideals for hundreds of sessions at each year's conference that illustrate how the educator preparation profession is changing for the better. They are also guiding principles that say, "We're moving in the right direction, but there are many improvements left to make. Let's get to work." And we are doing just that.
Amid what seems incessant and almost trendy criticism towards university-based educator preparation, I find pride knowing that this profession has its goals in sight and is making great strides to reach them. The Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) is a perfect example of how AACTE members are "writing the next chapter" in educator preparation. This spring, thousands of teacher candidates will take the TPA for the first time during the national field test. The TPA has grown to include more than 200 institutions in 26 states and will be the first-ever valid, reliable and nationally available assessment of teacher candidates' performance. What triumphant reform it is for us to know with certainty whether teachers are adequately prepared to enter a classroom and effectively teach diverse learners.
I am delighted that the Winthrop University College of Education's NetSCOPE program and the GoTeach South Dakota programs are "providing a learning journey for all" by transforming rural education. These programs, both funded by federal Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants, provide education, training and professional development for teachers serving in rural, high-needs school districts. There are 40 partnerships like this around the country, using TQP grants to implement partnerships between universities and low-income school districts. Unfortunately, this work may struggle to continue, as these successful competitive grants have been eliminated in the Obama Administration's 2013 budget proposal.
I am inspired by the University of Central Florida's College of Education for "embracing the future" with breakthrough technology integration. Through UCF's TLE TeachLivE™ Lab, teacher candidates interact with student avatars, learning how to respond to diverse behavior, needs and learning styles in real time. The TeachLivE™ program is so innovative and successful that it is now being beta tested in a network of more than 10 other universities around the nation.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg for a profession that has significant reform efforts underway to advance student learning. It is true that there are programs that are resistive to change and are producing graduates of questionable effectiveness. This cannot continue when children's education is at stake. AACTE has advocated that programs identified by their states as low-performing and not improving in a given time-frame should be closed. That said, there are programs out there that want to move forward but do not have adequate resources, support or access to information that could help them improve. States are in some of the most critical funding situations our generation has known, and federal programs that support university-based educator preparation are scarce and in jeopardy.
All of us involved in education — in the PK-12, higher education and policy community alike — are working to move the needle on student achievement. Let us lead a parade together and not waste energy fueling onslaughts and denouncing entire systems. Let's figure out what works, how it works and come together at one table to implement best practices. By cooperating around our shared goals, we will catalyze our ability to give all students the high-quality education that they deserve.
Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.