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Introduction to Teacher Preperation

Page history last edited by maxeme tuchman 14 years, 6 months ago

“By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom,” Arne Duncan, the new Secretary of Education under the Obama administration, said in a major speech at Teachers College, Columbia University this past October 22 of 2009. “America’s university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change--not evolutionary tinkering”.  With these statements the Secretary of Education brought attention to a significant issue in education reform in the United States- the perceived incompetence of teacher preparation programs in the United States. 

      Teacher preparation and education is a crucial, but often overlooked, ingredient in education reform. It is simple, without proper teacher education and preparation programs teachers will not be equipped with the knowledge and skills that are necessary to deliver a quality education. More importantly, education policies and reform often depend on the teacher’s ability and willingness to implement changes, and if these teachers are not properly prepared, these changes will not occur.

      The idea that teacher preparation is failing goes beyond Secretary Duncan’s statement. Recent studies have shown that teacher certification, which requires the completion of an education degree, has no discernible effect on teacher quality or student outcomes (Kaine and Staiger 2005). Some have suggested addressing this by evaluating teachers by performance on their job and not certification (Gordon et al 2006). Others have focused on improving professional standards for teaching as was done in Connecticut (Skyes&Burian Fitzgerald 2004). There are also other camps that argue for alternative certification programs as a way to improve teacher quality. However, few focus on the content of the actual preparation these teachers receive (Newman 2009). Basing ourselves on the literature and interviews of experts in the field, in this paper we argue that improving teacher education and preparation programs is an essential component in improving teacher quality, and thus education. Rather than waiting for the improvements to occur after teachers have invested time in preparation, interventions should occur to ensure that all receive a quality formation.

      While our original question was whether alternative or traditional programs did a better job at preparing teachers, we soon found that it is not the structure that matters, but rather the content. Thus, we present key elements that constitute effective teacher preparation and policies that could help promote these elements in teacher preparation programs.

      In the first section, we look at the history of teacher preparation in order to analyze trends in its evolution. In the second section we draw from literature reviews and interviews with leaders in the field to illustrate what the research says about teacher preparation and also use the literature and research to base a list of the key elements of effective teacher preparation programs. In the third section we explore the political climate to evaluate areas of opportunities and limitations for policies trying to address teacher preparation. Finally we present some policy options.

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