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Study Shows Teacher Training Inadequate

A new study from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and U.S. News & World Report shows that the majority of teacher preparation programs in the United States are not providing adequate training to aspiring teachers, leaving them unable to accommodate increasingly rigorous instructional goals of public schools.
The ratings, based on a series of recommended practices, shows only a handful of schools performing at a high level, while a significant number of programs are effectively failing.
“New teachers deserve training that will enable them to walk into their own classroom on their first day ready to teach, but our Review shows that we have a long way to go,” said Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ. “While we know a lot about how to train teachers, those practices are seldom evident in the vast majority of programs.”
“The problem is worse than we thought,” said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News. “The data shows that the academic caliber of many incoming students is quite low, and what they are taught often has little relevance to what they need to succeed in the classroom. Very few schools meet even a minimum standard of quality when it comes to using the best practices for educating teachers.”

Reacting to the report, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, "Teachers deserve better support and better training than teachers' colleges today provide, and school districts should be able to make well-informed hiring choices.”
The first edition of the NCTQ Teacher Prep Review, an unprecedented evaluation of more than 1,100 colleges and universities that prepare elementary and secondary teachers, was published today in partnership with U.S. News and World Report. As a consumer tool, it allows aspiring teachers, parents and school districts to compare programs and determine which are doing the best -- and worst -- job of training new teachers.
Among the findings:

  • In countries where students outperform the U.S., teacher prep schools recruit candidates from the top third of the college-going population. The Review found only one in four U.S. programs restricts admissions to even the top half of the college-going population.
  • A large majority of programs (71 percent) are not providing elementary teacher candidates with practical, research-based training in reading instruction methods that could reduce the current rate of reading failure (30 percent) to less than 10 percent of the student population.
  • In mathematics training of elementary teacher candidates, few programs emulate the practices of higher performing nations such as Singapore or South Korea. Only 19 percent of programs demonstrate similar expectations of their teachers.
  • Almost all programs (93 percent) fail to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, where candidates are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and must receive frequent concrete feedback.
  • Only 23 percent of rated programs are doing enough to provide teacher candidates with concrete classroom management strategies to improve classroom behavior problems.
  • Only 11 percent of elementary programs and 47 percent of secondary programs are providing adequate content preparation for teachers in the subjects they will teach.

“If we really want to help all teachers succeed, we not only need to change what happens in the schools where they work, we must also address the preparation of the next generation of teachers,” said Kate Walsh, President of NCTQ. “With the advent of the Common Core State Standards and other college and career readiness standards, the bar in this country is being raised on students, requiring the highest quality teacher preparation. What may have worked even five or ten years ago in teacher prep has to be reevaluated.”
She added: “By giving consumers the power to make more informed choices, we can help them become the engine for driving change. As we’ve seen in most other sectors, informed consumers are hard to ignore.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell reacted to the findings by saying, "There's plenty of research out there that shows that teacher quality is the single most important factor. We have to attract the best candidates possible."

In addition to program ratings, the Review also suggests a set of viable strategies for public officials that would improve public monitoring of program quality and hold institutions more accountable:

  • Make it tougher to get into a teacher preparation program.
  • Make it tougher to be recommended for licensure.
  • Hold programs accountable for the effectiveness of their graduates by using data on novice teacher effectiveness.
  • Make program approval — and re-approval — contingent on passing rigorous on-site inspections.
  • Require institutions to place their student teachers only with classroom teachers deemed to be effective.
  • Base state funding on the quality of teacher preparation provided by institutions.
  • Set a fixed limit on the number of licenses in each teaching area that will be issued each year.
  • Lower tuition for high-need areas such as special education and STEM preparation programs.

States are taking notice of this crucial issue. Just last week, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed new legislation addressing teacher preparation programs. Among the provisions in the bill, the selection requirements and the requirement for a performance assessment are especially noteworthy, and the law gives Delaware the ability to set among the highest standards in the nation for teacher preparation programs.
“Teacher quality is the most important school-related factor in giving students the skills they need to compete in the global economy,” said Markell. “We need a comprehensive effort that holds our teachers to high standards, while ensuring they receive resources and opportunities to promote student achievement. The teacher preparation law passed in Delaware this month offers a model to address the challenges highlighted in NCTQ’s report by: improving teacher training practices, requiring a rigorous assessment to qualify to be a teacher, and tracking the performance of teacher preparation programs. We must sustain our full commitment to these efforts so that our teachers have the tools they need to excel in their vital mission of helping our students succeed.”
The Review was financed by contributions of $4.8 million from 65 private foundations across the country. It was also broadly endorsed by PK-12 educators, with support from 24 state chiefs, over 100 district superintendents, the 65-member school districts of the Council of Great City Schools, and almost 80 education, children’s, civil rights, and business advocacy groups across 42 states and Washington, D.C.


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