Teacher Training Programs, Still Bad

There’s yet another yet another new effort to improve America’s teacher training programs. This comes out of a report warning that teachers colleges are (still) not doing a very good job.

According to a piece by Stephanie Banchero in the Wall Street Journal:

We need large, bold, systemic changes,” said James Cibulka, president of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the group that convened the expert panel. “As a nation, we are expecting all of our students to perform at high levels, so it follows that we need to expect more of our teachers as they enter the classroom.”

The panel said local school districts should work more closely with higher-education officials to train student teachers and assess whether they are actually helping students learn. In most states, candidates spend only about 10 to 12 weeks observing teachers or student-teaching themselves, with the bulk of their time spent listening to college lectures.

The panel essentially recommended tougher admissions standards into teacher training programs, more time in the classroom, and closer analysis of potential teachers’ performance in those classrooms.

Teacher quality is the most important factor in student achievement. People who enter college through teaching programs tend to have lower grade-point averages and standardized test scores than people in other programs.

The panel said teaching programs need to have higher standards in order to “improve the candidate pool.”

Good luck with that. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is actually the organization that’s arguably responsible for this problem; it’s the body that’s been accrediting teacher certification programs at U.S. colleges since 1954. It’s had plenty of opportunity to help improve that candidate pool.

The trouble is that just because current programs are crappy doesn’t mean that making them more rigorous will actually help. As Elizabeth Green wrote in a piece in the New York Times Magazine back in March, “[While] study after study shows that teachers who once boosted student test scores are very likely to do so in the future, no research… has shown a teacher-training program to boost student achievement.”

Read the NCATE report here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer