Why teacher preparation programs are crucial for our children
CHICAGO -- One of the most important yet frequently overlooked and misunderstood components of public school education is the system of teacher-preparation programs.
The national network of higher-education institutions that select, train and oversee the mentorship of the country's new teachers holds in its hands the immense power to shape public education through the quality of its emerging teacher corps.
And not nearly enough sunlight shines on how these programs select teaching candidates, choose what skills to convey, and assess their graduates' effectiveness.
A new proposed bill called the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act actually seeks to make things even cloudier. The legislation was recently introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., chairman of the Higher Education and Workforce Development subcommittee.
The PROSPER Act purports to eliminate "burdensome federal regulations that put Washington in the middle of issues that are the responsibility of institutions or states, limit student choice, and stifle innovative practices by institutions," according to the bill summary. "The bill also repeals or streamlines reporting requirements that fail to provide useful information to students, families, and policymakers, and exacerbate rising college costs."
In effect, the bill would end the current requirement that educator-preparation programs submit vital performance data to the federal government. Plus, the U.S. Department of Education would no longer be required to collect and report this data.
But the answer is to improve the existing accountability system for teacher preparation programs, not eliminate it, according to Kate Walsh, president of the nonpartisan watchdog organization, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).
"Are the current attempts at oversight of teacher-preparation programs actually improving teacher preparation? No. The accountability efforts in place are absolutely not what they should be, but why is the answer to get rid of them instead of fixing them?" asked Walsh.
She told me that throwing out the baby with the bathwater in the case of the current level of oversight is indicative of the current administration's view of all regulations across industries.
But Walsh isn't sweating it, because the NCTQ does the job of reporting out to the public how teacher-preparation programs are doing by partnering with the states themselves.