Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Report Suggests States Set Bar Too Low For Teacher Licensing

A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality contends that states are producing more elementary school teachers than are needed, and the bar is set too low for them to demonstrate that they have been adequately prepared for the work.

The council, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, today releases its 2012 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, which contains a wealth of data on preparation programs across the country.The yearbook also rated states based on policies and procedures surrounding teacher preparation and licensing. Alabama, Florida, Indiana and Tennessee earned B- grades, the highest given. Twenty states had grades ranging from “C+” down to “C-,” and two dozen states had grades from the “D+” to “D-” range. Three states – Alaska, Montana and Wyoming — received failing grades. The state average was a “D-.” That’s a slight improvement from the state’s average “D” grade in 2011.

From the council’s report:
Overall, 14 states (Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin) improved their teacher preparation grades since 2011, with the most progress made by Alabama, Connecticut, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

NCTQ President Kate Walsh said,

“With so much attention on the issue of teacher effectiveness, the relative lack of attention to how candidates for teaching are prepared for the job in the first place is puzzling. The Yearbook provides a roadmap for policymakers on how to get teacher effectiveness right from the start – by setting higher expectations for what teachers need to know and are able to do before they are licensed to become teachers. Our teachers deserve the very best preparation so that they can step into the classroom and help our students prepare to be the most successful in the world.”

However, the report is getting some pushback. Education officials in California are challenging the state’s “D” grade, and questioning the council’s methodology and data.

The nonprofit education blog EdSource reports that Erin Sullivan, spokesperson for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, said ““Some of their information is just wrong.”

From EdSource reporter Kathryn Baron’s story:

For example, the section of the report on California cites the state for not requiring middle school teachers to pass content area tests in each subject they’re licensed to teach and doesn’t require high school science teachers to pass a test for each discipline – such as biology, chemistry, etc. – that they’re licensed to teach. Sullivan said the state does require those exams. “It’s a little bit perplexing where they got some of this information,” she said.

Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk dug deep into the council’s report and provides additional state-level analysis. He also explores the broader question of what it means if states are producing more teachers than are needed. The council’s “one compelling argument” for why “policymakers should be concerned with supply-and-demand mismatches,” Sawchuk writes:

If colleges produced fewer elementary-level teachers, the council argues, they could be more selective about whom they admit and give candidates more intensive experiences, including the full year of student-teaching that national organizations for teacher-college accreditation have endorsed.

It’s the latter argument that appeals to Arthur E. Wise, an independent consultant and a former president of the Washington-based National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

“I think this is the real conundrum in all of this, because of course we lose approximately half of new teachers, which means we have not fully prepared many of these people. Or we want them to learn on the job, some of whom succeed and some of whom do not,” he said. “We could improve, enhance, and extend the quality of teacher preparation, and therefore produce better-qualified new teacher graduates, but probably fewer in number.”

How did your state rate on the NCTQ report? What is the response from state education officials, as well as local colleges of education? Are there reforms underway at the district or state level to improve the quality of teacher preparation, or to raise the bar for teacher licensing?

*Portions of this post were also published at EdMedia Commons

Have a question, comment or concern for the Educated Reporter? Contact Emily Richmond. Follow her on Twitter @EWAEmily.

Read other Educated Reporter articles.


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