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While there have been dozens of reports on how teacher education programs should change, there has been no nationwide concerted effort to hold teacher education programs accountable for preK-12 student learning. Until now.

By 2016, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) will require all programs seeking accreditation to demonstrate that they have selected a diverse and academically talented group of teacher candidates and that they have evidence that their graduates are teaching all children well. These new standards seek to strengthen the teaching profession through better preparation, a focus on diversity, and data-driven decision-making, and they are the types of improvements Congressional representatives should look for during tomorrow’s committee hearing on teacher preparation reform.

As someone who has been an associate dean or dean responsible for teacher education programs for almost 21 years, I welcome these changes. We have to admit that the United States’ teaching force currently does not reflect the diversity of the preK-12 student body, which leaves many students without classroom role models who look like them. CAEP’s new standards will require that programs annually demonstrate how well they are recruiting, selecting, training, graduating, and supporting diverse teachers.

We need more academically talented teachers who are diverse in their language of origin, ethnicity, and gender (we need more men in teaching!). We need teachers who can work successfully in hard-to-staff, high-poverty schools, so that we can ensure our nation’s students with the greatest challenges to overcome have top-performing teachers. The nation also needs teachers certified and prepared to teach bilingual students and English learners, as well as students in special education and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

As a result, programs will need imaginative strategies to identify and recruit a diverse talent pool that, in turn, can be admitted to an accredited teacher education program. Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery have shown that there is a hidden supply of high-achieving, low-income students who too often don’t realize their full potential; they should be identified and recruited into teaching. Through creative partnerships among higher education institutions, school districts, and community-based organizations, teacher education programs can share data and work to improve preK-12 schools and raise graduation rates. In these and other ways, we can grow the pipeline from local school systems into teacher preparation programs.

Furthermore, CAEP will require programs to use the evidence they gather for accreditation to improve their processes. That is, faculty will have to engage in discussions about the data collected on their programs’ successes and failures. Faculty will annually report the changes in curricula that result from these data-informed discussions. I see this as a huge opportunity to use data, not just for judging programs, but also for learning about what works. We need to know more about what teachers should do to help a 10th-grader who failed to learn fractions in fourth grade or an immigrant from Central America learn to excel on the challenging tests of the Common Core State Standards. By pushing for answers to questions like these, CAEP can help eliminate the achievement gap and ensure that all children learn from a stronger, more diverse teaching workforce.

Mary Brabeck is the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean and Professor of Applied Psychology at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. She chairs the Board of Directors of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

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