Blue Ribbons and Teacher Prep

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By Patrick Riccards
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education releases its (much) anticipated report from its Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improving Student Learning. Patrick Riccards examines the attention paid to teacher inputs.
With all of the talk about student achievement and turning around schools, there is a larger issue lurking in the shadows.  Teachers.  For much of this year, we’ve focused discussions of teacher quality on how we measure effective instruction in the classroom.  And while Eduflack is all about the outcomes, the research shows that the inputs of teacher quality are just as important, particularly when we look at the education and clinical preparation that goes into growing a better teacher.
Today, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education releases its (much) anticipated report from its Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improving Student Learning.  The Panel itself is a relative who’s who of the education blob, particularly those organizations and individuals involved teacher quality issues, including AACTE, AFT, IEL, KA, NBPTS, NCTAF, NEA, and a host of IHEs and LEAs (how’s that for using your edu-alphabet?).
What did the Blue Ribbon winners offer up on their key reccs for improving teacher quality and the clinical preparation of educators?  The group offered up a Top 5 list:
1) More rigorous accountability, including calling for teacher ed programs to do a better job of monitoring their programs, ensuring they are up to par, and guaranteeing they are meeting the needs of the school districts filling teaching jobs.
2) Strengthening Candidate Selection and Placement, with a careful eye to making teacher ed programs more selective and more diverse.
3) Revamping Curricula, Incentives, and Staffing, with a commitment to couple practice, content, theory, and pedagogy in the teacher ed process.
4) Supporting partnerships, particularly those relationships that produce college graduates “who do want to teach and are being prepared in fields where there is market demand.”
5) Expanding the knowledge base to identify what works and support continuous improvement, giving a hat tip to the unfortunate fact that “there is not a large research base on what makes clinical preparation effective.”
To help move these concepts into practice, NCATE announced that eight states — California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee — are now part of the new NCATE Alliance for Clinical Teacher Preparation (though it is interesting to note that six of those eight states now have new governors, thanks to this month’s elections).
So how does NCATE keep this report from suffering the fate of so many reports before it, being applauded at its release and then relegated to a shelf never to be read again?  Put simply, the NCATE reccs need to be moved into practice NOW.  The Alliance is a good first step.  But how are the reccs being implemented into the US Department of Education’s teacher candidate recruitment effort?  How are these priorities being funded through the Higher Education Act and Title II programs?  How are we rewarding colleges for doing right, while dealing with those leading us down the wrong paths?  And how do we ensure that federal, state, and local teaching dollars are going to employ those educators who live up to expectations and enter the classroom with the clinical preparation necessary to succeed from day one?
I realize I often throw cold water on these sorts of reports, always asking what comes next.  But informing is only the start of the battle, and all a report does is inform.  If we are to change the hearts, minds, and actions, we need to go further and dig deeper.  Changing the way we address teacher preparation is a big thing requiring a lot of work.  One report does not solve the problem, but it can get the discussion going.

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