June 1997 | Number 9
Problems, Prospects, and Policy
Few classroom factors have greater impact on student achievement than the ability of teachers to teach well. Given the vital importance of quality teaching to student success—and projections of serious teacher shortages in many school systems—teacher education is commanding increasing policy attention. Nearly two million new teachers will be needed in the United States in the next decade (U.S. Department of Education 1996), and half of all U.S. teachers teaching in 2005 will have been hired since 1995 (Darling-Hammond 1996). These pressing situations present an opportunity to transform the education of educators—and through them, the education of children.
Teacher education, which encompasses preservice preparation as well as ongoing professional development, has suffered a chronic lack of funding, resources, and status in the United States, particularly as compared to education in other professional fields. Educators widely agree that the conditions in which aspiring teachers learn to teach require significant change. “We need more powerful teacher education,” states David Imig, chief executive officer of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). “We need better teachers.” Compounding these challenges are problems of public perception. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, an eminent group of public officials, business leaders, and educators, recently released a two-year study (1996) identifying what the commission described as widespread “myths” that are barriers to educational reform, including the notions that anyone can teach and that teacher preparation is unnecessary.
In the face of problematic programs and public distrust, some policymakers have chosen to dismantle state requirements for formal teacher preparation altogether. Many education organizations, including the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), argue that teacher preparation must be bolstered, not bypassed. For decision makers, difficult questions arise:
- What should be done about teacher shortages?
- Should teacher candidates be allowed to enter the profession through alternative certification?
- Should entry into the teaching profession be based on demonstrated performance?
- Should all teacher preparation programs be officially accredited?
- How should the content of teacher education programs be determined?
The final measure of any policy approach to the education of teachers is how well the decision serves students. John I. Goodlad, a renowned expert on teacher education and codirector of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington, believes that transforming schools requires the “simultaneous renewal” of the education of educators (1994). Few goals are as daunting, or as critical.
Beyond Supply and Demand
President Clinton is calling for “a talented and dedicated teacher in every classroom.” Yet the quest for quality is often overshadowed by the crisis of quantity. For some school systems, looming teacher shortages intensify the challenge of developing a high-quality teaching corps. Factors contributing to the strong demand for teachers include the Baby Boom Echo, teacher retirements, and the reality that 17 percent of new teachers leave the classroom after one year (Albert 1997). “The system is hemorrhaging,” asserts Terry K. Dozier, special advisor on teaching at the U.S. Department of Education. And although shortages are a perennial occurrence, some schools, particularly those serving high concentrations of children in poverty, suffer the negative effects of a near-constant need for qualified educators.
Teacher shortages can throw school systems into a tailspin, undermining education reform efforts. Although policymakers may seek short-term solutions, such as salary incentives to teachers in subject areas of critical need, teacher shortages shed light on long-term concerns: the desirability of the teaching profession and the need for high-quality teacher education. “The more attention we pay to quality,” notes Arthur E. Wise, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), “the less serious any shortage will be.”
Is Alternative Certification a Desirable Alternative?
The projected need to fill so many empty classrooms has provoked strong interest in “alternative certification,” a policy concept that includes vastly different approaches to licensure. Basically, three broad categories of alternative teacher licensure exist: (1) emergency licenses, often granted temporarily, to individuals with little or no preparation for the classroom; (2) alternative certification programs, which offer an intensive period of preservice preparation that may fall short of complete teacher education; and (3) comprehensive teacher preparation programs for “nontraditional” students.
Some states have responded to teacher shortages by granting emergency, automatic, or alternative teaching licenses to individuals who meet minimal criteria, such as possession of a bachelor's degree. Opponents of these “backdoor” approaches to licensure point out that such policies ignore the range of abilities and knowledge required of skillful teachers, including understanding of the growing research base that now undergirds effective educational practice. “We are thoroughly opposed to automatic certification,” Wise avows. “Automatic certification makes a mockery of the state licensure process, because by granting a license, the state is supposed to be recognizing that an individual has been adequately prepared to teach.” Penelope Earley, senior director of governmental relations and policy analysis at AACTE, also worries that “the requirements may be relaxed to the point where anyone can obtain a license.” And by enabling individuals to enter the teaching profession without preparation, emergency licensure undermines efforts to improve teacher education.
Widespread criticism of emergency licensure has led to the development of a range of alternative certification programs, including some that offer intensive training and a brief “field experience” prior to full entry into teaching. Although such approaches acknowledge the benefits of preservice preparation, many educators worry that the programs do not offer the preparation educators need to serve students well. Richard A. Neumann, of San Diego State University, writes (1994),
Although some alternative certification programs may represent a more responsible approach to teacher shortages than emergency certificates, interns in these programs still assume full teaching responsibility with substandard training and experience ... it appears that students of emergency-certificated teachers and alternative certification interns bear a considerable cost in the education of these teachers.
Teach for America (TFA), one high-profile alternative program, has placed more than 20,000 recent college graduates in struggling U.S. urban and rural schools since 1989. The program selects participants from a pool of academically talented applicants who demonstrate a strong commitment to community service. Before assuming complete classroom teaching responsibilities for a two-year stint, TFA members participate in a five-week summer program. But leading teacher educators argue that this prominent group's efforts fall far short of furnishing adequate preparation for participants to work effectively with students. Linda Darling-Hammond, chair of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future and professor of education at Teacher's College, Columbia University, writes (1994),
It is clear from the evidence that TFA is bad policy and bad education. It is bad for the recruits because they are ill-prepared. They are denied the knowledge and skills they need, and many who might have become good teachers are instead discouraged from staying in the profession. It is bad for the schools in which they teach, because the recruits often create staffing disruptions and drains on school resources.... It is bad for the children, because they are often poorly taught.
Unlike emergency certification and some alternative certification programs, “nontraditional” options prepare transitioning professionals for the classroom through programs that involve the full spectrum of teacher preparation, including pedagogical preparation, subject preparation, and supervised classroom experience. “We strongly support alternative routes to licensure,” notes Wise. “At least 40 percent of colleges provide routes to licensure for aspiring teachers who did not study education in college. These alternative routes should accommodate everyone from recent graduates to older second-career professionals.” Nontraditional teacher preparation programs may focus on preparing specific groups, such as education paraprofessionals or retiring military, for the classroom and may well “meet the same rigorous criteria as traditional programs,” says Earley. By drawing talented individuals from other fields into full preparation for teaching, programs for nontraditional students contribute to long-term solutions to chronic teacher shortages.
As teacher candidates complete preparation programs, what factors should determine whether they cross the threshold to permanent classroom responsibilities? Although the complexity of effective teaching makes teacher evaluation difficult, the ultimate measure of teacher quality rests in daily classroom performance. An expanding body of research identifies what effective teachers should know and be able to do. (See, for example, Danielson 1996.) Some reformers believe initial teacher certification should be based on demonstrated performance, which includes demonstrating mastery of a body of pedagogical knowledge and skills. Alverno College, in Milwaukee, Wisc., for example, has built its teacher education program on the development of core abilities it believes teachers need to guide learners effectively. The program involves a rigorous, ongoing performance assessment process for aspiring teachers. “Having people demonstrate that they can do something with what they know is an innate part of the design of our curriculum,” notes Mary E. Diez, dean of the School of Education at Alverno (Scherer 1995).
Two recent large-scale developments related to performance-based entry into teaching include the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) and the Praxis III: Classroom Performance Assessments. INTASC links standards for licensing new teachers to standards for student performance. New teachers are assessed according to 10 principles that reflect core knowledge, skills, and dispositions. The focus of the assessment is to create a competency-based teacher licensing process. The Praxis system, developed by Educational Testing Service to replace the National Teacher Examination, offers states and education agencies a framework for teacher licensing decisions. Praxis III: Classroom Performance Assessments are designed for use in assessing actual classroom teaching skills. “Performance-based assessments for initial licensure may offer a vehicle to bridge the gap between universities and schools,” suggests Libby Hall, an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Preparation and Special Education at The George Washington University. “These assessments will enable us to speak the same language.”
Staying Power: Keeping Effective Teachers in the Profession
Once promising new teachers enter classrooms, schools face an additional challenge—encouraging them to stay. Attrition rates feed shortages and concerns about teacher quality, particularly given that the most talented new educators are often the most likely to leave the profession (Gonzales and Sosa 1993). Furthermore, high teacher turnover jeopardizes school reform, which requires years of sustained staff effort.
Two keys to reducing attrition rates are more selective recruitment and stronger preservice preparation. School decision makers must also focus on increasing support for new educators, who often find themselves professionally isolated during their first years of teaching. “Too often, we leave teachers alone at this most vulnerable point,” emphasizes Hall. “It is imperative that more attention be given to the mentoring of new teachers.” To carve out critical time for support during this challenging transition period, some schools have reduced the teaching loads of new teachers and their mentors. Other schools have implemented teacher assistance programs to counter attrition.
Standards for Teacher Preparation Programs
In another bid to raise teacher quality, some decision makers advocate expanding accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Formed in 1954, NCATE conducts an accreditation process that involves lengthy on-site reviews of teacher preparation programs by trained evaluators. NCATE standards cover a wide range of matters, from faculty composition to program design. Although NCATE accreditation is currently voluntary, the National Commission for Teaching and America's Future has recommended that states insist on accreditation for all schools of education. The Commission writes, “It is time for states and higher education to stop playing shell games with ineffective program approval procedures and support professional accreditation by the turn of the century” (1996, p. 70). Of the 1,050 institutions that currently prepare teachers in the United States, 500 are accredited by NCATE, 50 are being considered, and 500 are not accredited.
Calls for mandatory accreditation sometimes draw comparisons between the preparation of educators and the preparation of other professionals, such as physicians and attorneys. Though medical and legal education programs at universities must be accredited, schools of education may choose not to be. Some policymakers argue that if accreditation is to be meaningful, teacher education programs that do not meet NCATE standards, after remediation attempts, should be closed, even though such shut-downs could be politically painful, particularly if a program in question prepares teachers from backgrounds underrepresented in the teaching corps.
Many educators find promise in the movements toward standards for teacher licensure and accreditation of teacher education programs, but some reformers have expressed concern about the policy focus on standards. A heavy emphasis on standards, they believe, could divert attention from the moral, ethical, and democratic purposes of teaching.
The Content of Teacher Education Programs: Who Decides?
Although NCATE standards were developed by teachers for teachers, the curriculums of teacher education programs in some states are externally imposed by elected officials and regulatory bodies—a situation that can result in piecemeal programs for teacher candidates. John I. Goodlad, who has devoted decades to research on effective teacher education, writes (1990), “Elected and appointed officials have a responsibility for protecting the public in this important domain by setting standards for passing through the gates to teaching. But when the gatekeepers also prescribe the routes to the gates, they overstep their appropriate authority and responsibility.”
Disjointed policy mandates that require teacher education programs to cover specific content in a specific manner may undermine coherence. Some educators believe such problems can be averted through more coordinated communication among state-level education policymakers, university education faculty, university arts and sciences faculty, and mentor teachers in public schools. “The content of teacher education programs should not be determined by one group,” emphasizes Judy Minier, director of the Center of Pedagogy at Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. “There needs to be common agreement among all four groups, otherwise there may not be consistency for teacher candidates.”
Complicating the question of curricular control in many settings is the low status of teacher education departments compared to other university departments. “We generally deplore the fact that the college of education becomes the cash cow for some universities, and proceeds from teacher preparation programs are used to fund other programs,” Wise states. “Colleges of education have not enjoyed high status in universities.” The status of teacher preparation programs today has deep roots in the history of teacher education. Formal teacher education in the United States began in normal schools that were qualitatively different from university academic departments. And normal schools were accorded inferior resources and status, in part because they educated women (see timeline).
Questions about requirements placed on teacher education programs are also connected to concerns about the unique context of teacher education programs in universities. Imig describes teacher education as a set of nested tables: teacher education programs, housed within schools of education, housed within the university as a whole. “Policymakers can't simply look at teacher education programs in isolation,” he says. Factors affecting each arena have an impact on the education of teachers.
Recognizing that public school faculty, university education faculty, and other university academic faculty all play unique and necessary roles in teacher education, some decision makers are shaping dramatically new approaches to teacher education. These new developments challenge commonly held assumptions about teacher education. “It's not your mother's teacher education program anymore,” Earley, of AACTE, emphasizes. Efforts include the establishment of professional development schools, which, like teaching hospitals, involve aspiring teachers, mentor teachers, and university faculty working together at specific school sites.
Beyond professional development schools, some education leaders have designed “centers of pedagogy” to coordinate teacher education efforts. The concept of such centers emerged from the work of Goodlad and members of the Holmes Partnership, an education reform network. Minier, who heads the Center of Pedagogy at Montclair State, describes the Center as “an umbrella over all of teacher education and a place where the conceptualization and planning of teacher education occur.”
The Center at Montclair recognizes that all university faculty, not just those in colleges of education, are teacher educators. While aspiring teachers are studying literature, for example, they are also learning how to teach literature. The Center of Pedagogy has strengthened the preparation of teachers, Minier believes, through commitment and involvement that cross common boundaries. “Our arts and sciences faculty consider themselves teacher educators,” she says. “It's not a dirty word now.”
Centering Policy on Student Learning
The education of the teachers to whom the public entrusts its children constitutes one of the most serious policy issues today. Questions related to teacher education are complex, challenging, and controversial. Yet policymakers must not avoid taking action to strengthen teacher education, for it is only through highly effective educators that the potentialities of schools—and children—will become realities.
Teacher Education for Democratic Society
The role of teachers in the education of young people for democratic life is not separate from policy questions related to teacher education. Indeed, some thinkers argue that careful consideration of the obligations of teachers to democratic society is the first step in determining what teachers must be expected to know and do. “If teaching is at heart a moral and political endeavor and only secondarily a matter of technique or subject matter or teaching to the test, then there are significant implications for how teachers need to be prepared,” writes Roger Soder, associate director of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington (1996, 246–247).
A fundamental question for policymakers then becomes `How should teachers be prepared to teach students the responsibilities of democratic citizenship?' Although this question provokes complicated debates, Soder furnishes a concrete answer (1996, 269), “We have no other choice but to consider the arts and sciences—the locale for 75 percent of the intending teacher's time in higher education—as the fundamental place to provide the grounding in matters of the moral and political dimensions of teaching in a democracy. No other option makes serious sense.”
ASCD and Teacher Education
At its annual meeting in March 1997, the ASCD Board of Directors formally adopted this position on Teacher Education and Professional Development:
ASCD supports efforts to substantially improve the preservice preparation and continuing education of teachers and other educators. Teaching is a caring, complex and highly demanding occupation, requiring constant renewal of academic content and mastery of a professional knowledge base.
Preservice teacher education. Standards for admission to preparation programs should be comparable to those for other respected professions, and course work in education and related fields should be of the highest quality. Preservice programs should teach pedagogical skills as well as knowledge and understanding, and initial certification should be based on performance, meaning demonstrated mastery of a body of pedagogical knowledge and skills.
No person should be assigned to a regular teaching position (rather than an internship or other limited position) who has not demonstrated initial teaching competence, whether or not the person has completed an approved course of study. We support efforts of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) to enforce quality standards, and we believe substandard programs should be closed.
Continuing professional development. Teachers and other educators should be expected to learn and grow throughout their careers. Certification to teach should be for a limited period, and recertification, like initial certification, should be based on content mastery and teaching competence. Teachers in all schools must be provided the time and other resources necessary to reflect on their experiences, investigate new approaches, learn new skills, and plan with their colleagues. In most schools this will require redefining financial priorities as well as rethinking organization of the school day and year.
Relationship between preservice education and professional development. Responsibility for both preservice and continuing professional development is shared among school systems, institutions of higher education, and the professionals themselves. We endorse the concept of professional development centers: public elementary and secondary schools at which professional training and development is a major focus.
Teacher Education: A Historical Timeline
1823: Samuel R. Hall opens the first documented school for the training of teachers under private auspices in Concord, VT.
1839: Cyrus Peirce opens the Lexington (Mass.) Normal School.
1839: Normal schools begin to form in New England, implementing the public training of female teachers. The normal school stresses four basic components: the specific branches of knowledge, the art of teaching, the government of school, and putting theory into practice.
1840–60: A rise in common school enrollment results in a shortage of qualified teachers.
1873: The University of Iowa establishes the first permanent university chair of education.
1887: The New York College for the Training of Teachers opens. Renamed Teachers College in 1892, this prominent institution seeks to create a professional atmosphere around teacher education.
1896: John Dewey founds the laboratory school at the University of Chicago.
1905: California is the first state to require a fifth year of college work for secondary teaching credentials.
1917: The American Association of Teachers Colleges, an institution-based voluntary organization, is founded. Predecessor to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), it was to establish an accreditation system in 1923 that served as the basis for the creation of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
1920: The Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) is founded. ATE is the only national, individual membership organization devoted solely to the improvement of teacher education for both school and campus-based teacher educators.
1950s: An unprecedented need for teachers leads to more changes in teacher preparation.
1954: The National Council for Teacher Accreditation (NCATE) is founded.
1960s: In an era of teacher shortages and social activism, the U.S. federal government launches the National Teacher Corps and Trainer of Teacher Trainers programs. The Teacher Corps program, targeted to reform schools and assist disadvantaged students, includes intensive university- and school-based training, seminars, and internships with close mentoring.
1976:Educating A Profession is issued by the Bicentennial Commission on Teacher Education. The report calls for field-based training, extended programs, and development of a knowledge base on teacher education.
1983:A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform is published by the President's Commission on Excellence in Education. This study suggests that U.S. schools are inadequately preparing students to compete in the global economy.
1985:A Call for Change in Teacher Education is released by the National Commission for Excellence in Teacher Education, advocating for 16 major changes in recruitment, preparation, placement, and remuneration.
1986: The Carnegie Corporation's Task Force on Teaching as a Profession releases A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century. The report recommends establishing a National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.
1986: The Holmes Group publishes Tomorrow's Teachers, an analysis of the teaching profession and a call for transforming university instruction.
1989: Teach for America is formed. This alternative teacher service program places recent college graduates in needy rural or urban schools. After a five-week training course in the summer, participants make a two-year commitment to be full-time teachers.
1990: The largest study of teacher education ever conducted culminates in the publication of John I. Goodlad's Teachers for Our Nation's Schools.
1996: The National Commission on Teaching & America's Future releases What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future. The study offers strategies to improve recruitment, preparation, and continuing support for teachers in U.S. schools.
Albert, T. (February 25, 1997). “Interest In Teaching Is Up, But So Is the Demand.” USA Today 2A.
Danielson, C. (1996). Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Darling-Hammond, L. (1996). “The Current Status of Teaching and Teacher Development in the United States.” (A briefing paper at http://www.tc.columbia.edu/~teachcomm/ brief1.htm)
Darling-Hammond, L. (September 1994). “Who Will Speak For The Children? How `Teach for America' Hurts Urban Schools and Students.” Phi Delta Kappan 76,1: 21–34.
Gonzales, F., and A.S. Sosa. (March 1993). “How Do We Keep Teachers in Our Classrooms? The TNT Response.” IDRA Newsletter: 1, 6–9.
Goodlad, J.I. (1994). Educational Renewal: Better Teachers, Better Schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Goodlad, J.I. (February 1990). Preface to “The Context of Policy and Policy Making In Teacher Education.” by D. Ernst. Center for Educational Renewal Occasional Paper Series. No. 11, ii.
National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. (1996). What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future. New York: Author.
Neumann, R.A. (April 1994). “Reconsidering Emergency Teaching Certificates and Alternative Certification Programs As Responses To Teacher Shortages.” Urban Education 29, 1: 105.
Scherer, M. (March 1995). “How Alverno Shapes Teachers: A Conversation With Mary Diez.” Educational Leadership 52, 6: 50–54.
Soder, R. (1996). “Teaching the Teachers of the People.” In Democracy, Education, and the Schools, edited by R. Soder. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
U.S. Department of Education. (1996). The Baby Boom Echo. (A Back-to-School Special Report). Washington, D.C.: Author.
ASCD. Enter the ASCD Web at http://www.ascd.org for more information on education policy issues.
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). Suite 610, One Dupont Circle, Washington, DC 20036-1186, 202-293-2450; http://www.aacte.org
Association of Teacher Educators (ATE). Suite ATE, 1900 Association Drive, Reston, VA 22091, 703-620-3110
Center for Educational Renewal. University of Washington, College of Education, 313 Miller Hall, Box 353600, Seattle, WA 98195-3600, 206-543-6230
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Suite 500, 2010 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036-1023, 202-466-7496
National Commission on Teaching & America's Future. Teachers College, Columbia University, Box 117, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027, 212-678-3204; http://www.tc.columbia.edu/~teachcomm