President, National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)
Teachers shape the future with every child they teach. That’s why every child deserves effective teachers and every teacher deserves the opportunity to become as effective as possible.
Look at the classroom
For too many students, this vision is not yet reality. Nearly two million students each year find themselves in classrooms with new teachers who are less effective than they should be.
Because many teacher preparation programs do not show future teachers the best, scientifically-based ways to help students learn, their graduates find themselves spending their first year teaching not only their students but also themselves. This first year is not unlike a fraternity hazing due to inadequate preparation.
Evaluate the training programs
Most great teachers are not born but made — the result of a quality education, support from seasoned peers, hard work and strong determination. But the National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) recent study of traditional undergraduate programs preparing elementary teachers found that they ignore research findings on the knowledge and skills that should be essential to instruction. For example, nearly two decades after the scientific community reached firm consensus about how to teach reading, only two in five programs even mention all five methods. Fewer still provide elementary teacher candidates with necessary grounding in math content. Just five percent make sure their candidates obtain a well-rounded education in science, history and literature.
As a result, new teachers struggle. This is not the fault of the teachers as their preparation program failed to instill in them vital knowledge and skills. How can teachers teach content or use teaching methods they never learned?
Demand fundamental change
Americans who are concerned about the quality of their children’s teachers should demand that teacher training programs incorporate research-proven content and methods, and provide future teachers with plenty of practice.
Of course, every teacher grows on the job through experience or through training in the summer and after school. Even veteran teachers benefit from the chance to learn new methods and update their materials. Still, if we could improve the quality of teachers’ preparation programs, new teachers would be more successful from their first day in front of students.
Teachers — and their students — deserve nothing less.
Kate Walsh, President, National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), [email protected]