Preparing our teachers improves our future
Too many new teachers are not prepared for their first day in the classroom. And few programs today effectively train them, a report released Tuesday by the National Council on TeacherÂ Quality (NCTQ) concludes.
These findings are sobering, since few professions have a greater impact on our nationâ€™s future. The research is clear: Teacher quality is the most important school-related factor in aÂ student’s academic success.
Often, our teacher preparation programs donâ€™t attract the strongest applicants to begin with. Less than 25 percent of American teachers come from the top third of college graduates, according to a 2010 McKinsey & Company report, compared to 100 percent in Singapore, Finland and South Korea.Â Only about 25 percent of our preparation programs restrictÂ admissions to the top half of the college-going population.
To address this, in Delaware we brought together leadersÂ in higher education, public school administrators, policy makers and, most important, teachers — and their union — to create a blueprint for strengthening teacher preparation. I signed legislation last week that lays the groundwork for our new approach.
We start by setting minimum criteria for acceptance to teacher preparation programs.Â To qualify, students must have a at least a 3.0 grade point average, rank in the top half of their class or pass a state-approved exam. WeÂ give institutions flexibility to waive theÂ prerequisites for a limited number of applicants.
Next, we ensure these teachers in training participate in quality student teaching experiences — which NCTQ found lacking in 93 percent of programs. Student teaching will now beÂ interwoven throughout a programâ€™s curriculum, including aÂ substantial full-time component.
More than 70 percent of current programs do notÂ incorporate research-based reading instruction methods, according to NCTQ, while about 80 percentÂ do not set high expectations in math. With the implementation ofÂ our new law, Delaware requires both.
While many professionals — like doctors and nurses — canâ€™tÂ qualify for licenses without demonstrating that they can apply their knowledge, teachers are often licensed just by passing basic written exams. The state will now require that all preparation programs conduct regular reviews of candidates, followed by exit assessments. All new educators must then pass a state performance assessment in addition to a written exam to ensure they understand and can apply the content they will teach.
Finally, the law holds both the state and the preparation programs accountable for putting more great teachers in Delawareâ€™s classrooms.Â We will track and report on the effectiveness of each college andÂ universityâ€™s graduates, using that data as part of our programÂ approval process and to ensure effective practices are used statewide.
We have conducted a statewide teaching and learning conditions survey to more fully understand our teachersâ€™ views, and have transformed â€śprofessional developmentâ€ť programs through new â€śprofessional learning communities.â€ť Under this initiative, all teachers must meet with a small group of their peers for 90 minutes each week to discuss student data and instructional practices.
We are also looking to improve our compensation system, through increased teacher starting salaries and additional pay for educators who provide leadership to their peers, as well as those who teach in schools serving high-need students or hard-to-staff subject areas like math and science.
Giving every student access to quality teaching is not only a moralÂ obligation — it is an economic imperative.
Hundreds of times, Iâ€™veÂ asked Delaware business leaders and entrepreneurs what our state can do for them. Their most common answer isÂ what I found in my own private sector career: Better access to a skilledÂ workforce. They recognize they cannot execute their innovative ideas without talented, adaptableÂ employees.
The one way our job creators will succeed is if we ensure ourÂ educators are well equipped to do their jobs. That can only happen ifÂ we value the teaching profession as much as the success of our kids.
PHOTO (Insert A): Teacher Jaclyn Kruljac speaks to her 5th grade class at Walsh Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois, Mar. 1, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young
PHOTO (Insert B): Teacher Audrey Benes speaks to her kindergarten class at Walsh Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois, Mar. 1, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young