A Look at Teacher Prep

AFT Task Force Takes New Look at Teacher Preparation


The AFT has convened a task force on teacher preparation. This issue is at the fulcrum of successful teaching: K-12 teachers care about it because it affects their newest colleagues, their own professional development and the quality of their schools. Higher education faculty depend on solid teacher training to turn out future generations of prepared college applicants. And, of course, education faculty are at the center of college and university teacher preparation programs.

 

The task force has a good start: the AFT publication, "Building a Profession: Strengthening Teacher Preparation and Induction," is highly regarded as a visionary outline for ensuring teacher quality from the very beginning. Now, the 14 task force members, carefully chosen for their expertise and positions in education schools and K-12 unions, will revisit the findings, update them with current research and produce a new report to release in July.

 

After months spent reviewing scholarly research, including Building a Profession, considering an AFT-directed survey of new teachers and sharing their own experiences, task force members are now distilling the most important elements of teacher preparation into final recommendations.

Due out in July, the document also will outline the best ways to implement those recommendations in teacher education programs at colleges, universities and even alternative preparation programs, through policy, partnerships and advocacy.

 

Effective education policy depends on the inclusion of teacher input. So it’s no surprise that the survey of new teachers played a dynamic role in informing conversation about what’s working—and what’s not—in teacher preparation programs.

Continuing to include teacher voices in policymaking is essential in creating a system of training that will prepare new colleagues for the reality of the classroom. “There is no substitute for the leadership of practicing teachers,” a task force working paper suggests. “The system for setting and enforcing standards in the teaching profession should be significantly changed to ensure that kind of leadership and ownership.”

 

Several issues surfaced repeatedly as the most important elements of teacher preparation: clinical experience, from an early point in the education of a teacher; strong command of subject material; admissions standards and exit requirements for teacher preparation programs; continued training, especially during the first years of classroom experience; and evaluation of teacher education programs. But while the AFT is seizing the lead on teacher preparation, the union also will be working together with other stakeholders. Collaboration will continue to be a part of the process, and will include not only K-12 and higher education members and leaders but also school districts, state and federal policymakers, accrediting agencies and other unions.

 

By July, the 14-member committee will have a concise document that gathers the best ideas, crafted into a concise path to achieving the most effective teacher preparation. Among the features likely to be included:

 

  • Rigorous entry, midpoint and exit standards for teacher preparation programs;
  • A clear and cohesive conceptual framework;
  • Seamless connections between pedagogy and clinical practice;
  • Continued learning with peers and mentors;
  • Strong partnerships between schools and teacher education programs; and
  • Documentation of graduates’ hiring, success and retention rates over time.

A report on the task force recommendations will be presented at the AFT convention in July.

 



 

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