Teacher hands out assignments to her first grade class at Walsh Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois, March 1, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

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 Teacher Quality (NCTQ) concludes.

These findings are sobering, since few professions have a greater impact on our nation’s future. The research is clear: Teacher quality is the most important school-related factor in a student’s academic success.

Often, our teacher preparation programs don’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. Only about 25 percent of our preparation programs restrict admissions to the top half of the college-going population.

To address this, in Delaware we brought together leaders 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.