September 27, 2013
By David Chard
What happens inside the classroom is the most critical ingredient in ensuring that all students are able to achieve their career goals. Improving educational attainment for all students in today’s schools can only happen if we improve the quality of teaching.
Just over 30 years ago, I decided to become a classroom teacher, specifically a teacher of mathematics and chemistry. I was prepared at a midsize university in the Midwest. Despite the university’s great reputation for teacher preparation, faculties in mathematics and chemistry discouraged me from the profession, noting that I was not going to be adequately compensated, would work in difficult conditions, and would be much happier in industry. This should have been a message to me that as a society we had moved down a path that dissuades the best and brightest from seeing teaching as a viable career option.
Nevertheless, I was hired to teach mathematics in California in 1985. At the time, like today, far fewer individuals were being prepared to be mathematics teachers in California than the state needed. Many of us were hired from the Midwest and from eastern states, and given emergency certification in California conditioned on passing a course on California history and the National Teacher Exam in mathematics. I didn’t realize then that my experience in California was the beginning of 30 years of slow but steady decline in the quality of candidates we were attracting and preparing to teach in our schools.
Over that period, it has become clear that current state control of teacher preparation and licensing does not ensure that teachers will be of high quality. State regulations that promote a one-size-fits-all approach to teacher preparation have limited our ability to innovate, customize, and study features of preparation programs that may positively affect student achievement. Bold new approaches to teacher preparation that are thoroughly evaluated for effectiveness in the classroom are long overdue.
What’s Wrong with the System
Each state sets standards for teacher certification largely through its regulation of the teacher preparation programs that are operated by the institutions of higher education located within its boundaries. With few exceptions, this approach is unsatisfactory....