Most of the country’s teacher preparation programs are not ensuring that newly minted K-12 teachers can help students meet tougher reading and math standards that have been recently adopted by nearly every state, according to a new report released Wednesday from the National Council on Teacher Quality.
In the past four years, most states and the District of Columbia have adopted new academic standards in primary and secondary schools that are designed to ensure that students are ready for either college or the workforce when they graduate from high school.
Forty three states and D.C. have adopted the same academic standards, known as the Common Core; other states have developed or plan to create their own new, tougher standards. The standards spell out the skills and knowledge that every student should possess at the end of each grade.
But few states are requiring that teacher preparation programs within their borders prepare teacher candidates to help students reach those higher standards, according to the NCTQ, a Washington-based advocacy group. It received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, among other philanthropies.
The advocacy group analyzed teacher standards and licensing requirements for every state and D.C. and found that few have made significant changes in recent years, despite the fact that nearly every state has adopted tougher new K-12 academic benchmarks for students.
No state got a top rating for policies that produce teachers who are well prepared to help students meet the Common Core State Standards. But five states — Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Texas — were considered “ahead of the pack” regarding high quality teacher preparation and licensing.
Still, many states are “going nowhere when it comes to paving the
way for new K-12 teachers … to help students
meet more ambitious college- and career-readiness standards,” the report found.
The report found that when it comes to insuring that new teachers know the subject matter they’re going to teach, fewer than half the states require elementary teaching candidates to pass a content test in each of the four core subject areas of reading, math, science and social studies.
Eighteen states require elementary teachers to demonstrate their understanding of the science of reading — how children learn to read — but only 11 of those states require the same of special education teachers.
Since most students who seek special education services struggle to read, the fact that most states don’t require those teachers to demonstrate knowledge of the science behind reading is “baffling”, the report said.
The report comes at a time when there is broad agreement among educators and public officials — from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to governors to unions — that the country is failing to adequately train the 200,000 people who become teachers each year.
The Obama administration unveiled a proposal last month to regulate how the country prepares teachers, with the goal of improving quality. Under that plan, the federal government would require states to issue report cards for teacher preparation programs within their borders, including those at public universities and private colleges, as well as alternative programs such as those run by school districts and nonprofits such as Teach for America.
The federally required rating systems would for the first time consider how teacher candidates perform after graduation: whether they land jobs in their subject field, how long they stay and how their students perform on standardized tests and other measures of academic achievement.
Other professions have standardized systems and national exams to ensure consistency. Medical students, for example, undergo a four-year program and a residency before taking a state licensing exam and national board exams, all designed so new physicians have the same core knowledge and practical skills.
But teacher preparation programs vary from school to school, and each state sets its own licensing requirements.