02/02/2015 11:35 am ET Updated Apr 04, 2015

Real Change Needed to Address Critical Challenges in Teacher Prep

There is little question that effective teacher preparation is a critical challenge currently facing our nation. Through the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (where I serve as president) is attracting, preparing, and placing talented, committed individuals into teaching in high-need secondary schools. We are working to change the way top teachers are prepared, partnering with colleges and universities to create a more effective teacher education program focused on a yearlong classroom experience, rigorous academic work, and ongoing mentoring.

In November, I wrote for HuffPost that new draft teacher preparation regulations from the U.S. Department of Education were an important step toward addressing many of the deficiencies in current teacher education programs. The priorities identified by ED, I said at the time, are essential to strengthening teacher education programs to meet the future needs of schools and students alike.

After continued review, I can say the Woodrow Wilson Foundation strongly supports the new direction for teacher preparation proposed by the U.S. Department of Education. For more than seven years, the Foundation has worked to help transform teacher and leader education programs throughout the nation, recognizing that the vast majority of schools of education currently are not operating at the levels necessary to ensure a strong pipeline of well-prepared, excellent educators, particularly those becoming teachers of record in high-need schools.

Specifically, the Foundation asserts the following:

Student Outcomes
• One primary indicator of the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs is student outcomes;
• Particularly for those new to the profession, student learning outcomes can help identify the strong and weak in teacher preparation, while offering important data on how specific programs should be improved to meet student learning needs;
• School districts should hold schools of education and other preparation programs accountable for the quality and impact of their graduates;
• Available data from Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship efforts in Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio demonstrate that strong academic preparation, a rich clinical experience, and robust mentoring can boost teacher effectiveness and student achievement;
• Unfortunately, student outcome data collected in many states is woefully insufficient to successfully measure the success of teacher education programs; and
• ED should further incentivize states to identify, collect, and analyze student learning outcomes for all grades in all core subjects.

Employment Outcomes
• Teachers' departure from the profession and their switching between schools are a significant impediment to student achievement, particularly in high-need schools;
• Teacher retention is an essential component to closing the achievement gaps and improving student learning outcomes;
• Teacher persistence is a top priority for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and its programs are focused on providing school districts a pipeline of teachers prepared in the needed subjects;
• Woodrow Wilson's success in keeping its Fellows in high-need schools is a direct result of ensuring that potential educators gain the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed once they become teachers of record: and
• Long-term success in teacher retention demands educator preparation efforts that focus on a year-long master's degree program, a rich clinical experience that places prospective teachers in high-need schools, and robust mentoring that continues for years after a Fellow has become a teacher of record.

Customer Satisfaction
• By surveying school principals, school district HR officials, and even parents, those involved in the hiring process can better understand which programs are producing teachers who are improving student outcomes and building a larger community of learning; and
• As with educator evaluations, surveys designed to measure the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs are best left to the states to administer, ensuring they are capturing information that best evaluates and compares those institutions of higher education in their respective states.

Program Review and Accreditation; Multiple Performance Levels
• The standards developed by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) serve as a strong foundation for the Program Review and Accreditation goals called for by ED.

Flexibility to States
• The federal government makes policy through the Higher Education Act, ultimately relying on states to enact it;
• States' willingness to innovate and lead when it comes to education policy is central to meaningful change and improvement;
• States should be encouraged to work directly with their school districts in efforts to strengthen teacher preparation programs, as local districts can provide valuable information on subject areas where they will most need teachers, programs that have been particularly helpful in filling vacancies in high-need schools, and areas for improvement;
• Under federal policies on teacher preparation, states can and should take bold steps to redesign their teacher preparation programs; and
• Woodrow Wilson Foundation successes in states such as Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio clearly demonstrate that states are can bring teacher education into the 21st century, ensuring both improved inputs as part of the preparation process and improved outcomes resulting from it.

To read a deeper discussion on these points, please visit the full Woodrow Wilson Foundation statement on these proposed teacher preparation rules changes.