Principal and Teacher Preparatory Programs Leave Educators Unprepared for the Demands of Today

Publication date: Sep 23, 2013

WASHINGTON (September 24, 2013) — While there has been considerable progress in ensuring that U.S. students receive high-quality instruction through the Common Core State Standards and revised teacher evaluation systems, there has been limited focus on the quality of the programs that are preparing teachers and school leaders to teach the new college- and career-ready standards.

A new report by The Education Trust, ““Preparing and Advancing Teachers and School Leaders: A New Approach for Federal Policy,”” finds that too many educator preparation programs do not adequately train educators for the real-world challenges they will encounter in the classroom or for school districts’ hiring needs. The report notes that changes to federal policy can improve educator quality by requiring more useful information on teacher and leader preparation programs, promoting meaningful action to improve low-performing programs, and sparking innovation in how districts and states manage educator pipelines.

“”Large numbers of educator preparation programs all across the nation are consuming considerable amounts of public dollars and in turn are pushing out teachers and leaders that are underprepared to meet the needs of today’s students,”” said Sarah Almy, director of teacher quality at The Education Trust. ““Additionally, many states’ teacher certification and district compensation systems actually encourage this disconnect with little or no accountability.””

The report asserts that the lack of adequate preparation is a disservice to teachers and students, particularly low-income students and students of color who are most likely to be taught by newly minted teachers. While a growing number of education leaders are beginning to speak up on the issue of poor educator preparation programs and a few states are taking some promising steps to amend their programs, a federal role is essential to ensure that these efforts reach all students.

Through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), the federal government can help bolster state efforts to assess the performance of principal and teacher preparation and help states redesign the teacher talent pipeline and incentive systems that are currently so dysfunctional.

“”Far too many teacher and leader preparation programs don’t address the demands educators will face when they graduate or the needs of the districts that hire them,”” said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.). “”This is unfair to teachers and devastating to students, especially our most at-risk students. For this reason, I plan to introduce legislation that, like The Education Trust policy recommendations, will help us take a step in the right direction for improving the quality of educator preparation programs, which will improve outcomes for both students and teachers.””

Ed Trust recommends the following policy solutions as legislators move to reauthorize the HEA.

  • States should be required to assess the performance of teacher and principal preparation on a range of output metrics to truly hold programs accountable. Such measures should include tying student learning to graduates. This should be done as a condition of acquiring federal student aid funding; and
  • The federal government should reimagine the use of federal competitive dollars currently allocated in Title II -— and supplement those with additional resources from ESEA Title II —- to enable a select number of states each year, in coordination with districts and programs, to design and implement comprehensive redesigns of pipeline and advancement systems.

These recommendations come on the heels of the National Council on Teacher Quality report,  which found that too many teacher preparation programs have low expectations for who is accepted and who graduates, use curricula that are disconnected from the new college- and career-ready standards, and exhibit a lack of quality control in selecting educators to guide teacher candidates during clinical practice, among other issues.

The Ed Trust report explains how the systems that states and districts have created for teachers to maintain licensure and advance professionally are faulty and can contribute to the quality issues seen in preparation programs. Specifically the report notes that many of these systems reward educators for accumulating credits and degrees, rather than improving their instruction; require teachers to obtain course work credits as part of licensure renewal, without ensuring that the course content actually helps teachers grow professionally; incentivize teachers to obtain an administrative license, even if it is not used; and limit teachers’ professional growth opportunities merely to earning graduate degrees or administrative licenses.

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