Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: email@example.com
The U.S. Department of Education is funding a new push for improved teacher preparation, Secretary Arne Duncan announced on Friday. A series of reforms would allow schools of education in universities nationwide to better track the success of their graduates and cater their curriculum toward proven methods of success.
In a briefing with the media, Duncan explained the need to improve education on the whole by starting back before teachers ever arrive in the classroom. According recent surveys, up to 62 percent of teachers self-reported they felt unprepared for "the realities of their classrooms," Duncan said.
"Imagine what our country would do if 62 percent of our doctors felt unprepared to practice medicine," Duncan said. "You would have had a revolution in our nation's medical schools. Our teacher preparation programs have operated too often in the dark without access to meaningful data on how effective their graduates are. Maintaining the status quo in teacher education is absolutely unacceptable."
The reforms will have three core elements, according to an outline released by the Education Department.
First, the department will reduce the reporting burden for schools of education, which currently must report 440 different measures annually. Instead, through an ongoing dialogue with education schools, the department will develop three primary outcome metrics indicating how well teachers are doing after they graduate. The department will encourage states to link student test scores with teachers and their schools of education as part of these accountability measures.
Second, the department will initiate a $185 million Presidential Teaching Fellows program, which will pay for states to develop rigorous policies for teacher education and supply scholarships for future educators. A senior administration official said 25 percent of the $185 million will go to states to refine their licensing policies and improve teacher preparation programs. The remainder will pay for the scholarships, directed toward future teachers who will be prepped in high-needs subjects and will teach in high-needs schools for at least three years following their graduation.
Finally, the department will develop Hawkins Centers for Excellence, a $40 million project, which will strive to create a more diverse teaching population. Institutions that serve minority will be eligible for competitive grants to reform and improve their teacher preparation programs. Funding can also be used to establish partnerships between local school districts or non-profit organizations to place minority teachers in high-needs areas.
The new initiative was developed with the assistance of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, Teach for America and the University of Michigan School of Education.
"I think this is a very important piece in changing the system and building our profession," NEA president Dennis Van Roekel said. "No student should have a teacher who is not well prepared. We ought to have clear standards of what a candidate needs to know and be able to do before ever entering the classroom."