Getting the Facts Straight on Preparing Educators
By Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)
Studies from both the National Research Council and the U.S. Department of Education confirm that teacher effectiveness is the leading in-school influence on student achievement, and that there is a strong, empirical relationship between teachers' qualifications and student achievement.
Given these findings, one might expect federal and state policy agendas to be dominated by questions of how to build capacity and innovation within institutions of higher education — an industry that prepares more than 90 percent of new teachers. Ironically, these questions are not the focus of policy makers.
University-based educator preparation is often criticized for not being selective enough, not having rigorous enough student teaching components, and not producing teachers who are prepared to instruct high-need students in high-need fields or who are not effectively raising student achievement. Time and time again, I see critics support these sweeping judgments with hearsay and outdated statistics that represent only a fraction of a field that has made leaps and bounds in the last decade. Yes, there are areas still in need of improvement, but there has also been significant conceptual and tangible progress in the profession that deserves to be recognized and supported.
That is why the policy agenda for AACTE is designed to promote the important innovations being implemented across university-based educator preparation, to engage the professional community around best practices, and to ensure our conversations are based in fact and with accurate perceptions about the capacities of the system. To do this, AACTE prepared a set of position statements that address what we know and where we stand on persistent issues surrounding the profession. The statements answer a range of questions that include:
- Does educator preparation affect student achievement?
- What is the relationship between preparation and retention?
- Which programs result in a stronger sense of readiness for the realities of practice?
- What is the differential impact of "traditional" vs. "alternative" programs?
- How selective are educator preparation programs?
We explore year-long residency models, clinically-based programs based in strong and enduring partnerships between universities and K-12 school districts; stronger evaluation of teacher candidates' capacity through a nationally available performance assessment; joint planning between universities and school districts to address evolving workforce demands; learning to use technology applications to manage and enhance learning; and professional development for both university faculty and school district personnel to address student achievement challenges.
AACTE and its members actively advocate for requiring more rigorous clinical experiences, improving state data systems' capacity to analyze program and candidate impact on student achievement, and expanding the use of performance assessments to inform the teacher licensing process.
These issues are the right focus for our professional community. To get there, we must get the facts straight, get on the same page and move together beyond the persistent doubts about the efficacy of educator preparation.
A complete list of AACTE's "What We Know" and "Where We Stand" statements can be found here.
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.