Teacher Preparation: Mend It, Don't End It

Monday, June 15, 2009
Some education reformers want to cut higher education out of the business of teacher preparation and give the job to non-traditional providers. While there are numerous alternatives to traditional teacher preparation--such as residency programs and initiatives such as Teach for America--the vast majority of the nation's teachers continue to graduate from schools of education.

I recently authored this policy brief, funded by the Carnegie Corporation through a grant to my employer, the New Teacher Center, as part of its Teacher for a New Era (TNE) initiative. TNE is built upon the premise that teacher preparation can be strengthened by building upon strong teacher development partnerships that currently exist between higher education and k-12 schools. The brief makes the case that teacher development should not assumed to be over the day a teacher leaves his or her preparation program, but should be viewed as a developmental continuum spanning the entire teaching career which should include a robust induction period. It offers up some promising partnership models and example of state policies that support the development of such linkages between teacher education and school-based induction programs.

Here's are some brief excerpts:
The Carnegie Corporation’s Teachers for a New Era (TNE) initiative is an attempt to rethink teaching by building upon what works, focusing on available evidence to improve, and learning from successful reform models. In effect, it is an opportunity and a call for traditional teacher preparation to reinvent itself.


A challenge for practitioners and policymakers alike is to envision and create a continuum of teacher support which stretches from the first days of pre-service education throughout the entire teaching career. The critical element of this challenge is to strengthen the connection between the pre-service curriculum and district-based teacher induction program and to develop mutual accountability for new teacher development among the key stakeholders. The reality is far from this vision.


The alignment of teacher preparation and induction has been a focus of conversation among academics, practitioners, and policymakers for more than two decades. Calls continue to come from many quarters for greater action on this front. Most recently, James G. Cibulka, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, has vowed to use the organization as a “lever for reform,” urging institutions of higher education to build intensive partnerships with schools and districts.

Only in a select few settings have imagined reforms actually occurred. An on-going challenge is to continue to move this work forward and to create replicable partnership models and policies. Another challenge is actually demonstrating the impact of such work—not just for teachers, but also for their students and the schools they serve. Advocates of such a system, including the Carnegie Corporation’s Teachers for a New Era initiative, have made a compelling case that an aligned system of teacher development is in the best interest of the educators themselves. But does it result in more effective teachers? And does it benefit students and schools? Perhaps it does, but we don’t really have sufficient evidence to demonstrate it.

Due to the rarity of data systems that bridge the divide between higher education and k–12 schools, it has been nearly impossible to measure the impact of the small number of partnerships and state policies that have sought to create a seamless teacher development continuum encompassing both pre-service education and new teacher induction. Theoretically, if the alignment is strong, then we should see a number of outcomes as a result: greater teacher satisfaction, increased educator self-efficacy, reduced new teacher attrition, stronger teacher evaluation data, and perhaps even improved student achievement.