Focus on Teacher Prep Brings Results

Three messages arrived in my inbox this morning pertaining to educator preparation. MBAE has considered teacher training a key lever for strengthening education and raising student performance since we worked with the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) on reports on human capital policies in Boston and Springfield many years ago. The evidence was clear that teachers and school leaders are the ones who can really bring about improvements in student learning. Our New Opportunity to Lead agenda provided further basis for prioritizing “world class teachers and leaders” as a critical element for improving education.

An article in Governing magazine about the Chicago Public Schools further reinforces this point. After 30 years of education reform, gains in Chicago are being attributed to a focus on principals. A 2010 change in Illinois law raised the bar for earning a certification as a school leader. The Center for Urban Education Leadership began training principals for Chicago Public Schools. The program “sought to mold school leaders who would reject the notion that inner-city children from disadvantaged backgrounds face insuperable barriers to a quality education.” While challenges persist, the importance of strong, highly capable school leaders is underscored by Chicago’s experience.

NCTQ continues to provide the research base for looking at how we prepare teachers to succeed in our classrooms. Its newsletter today included an article comparing undergraduate and graduate programs with the counterintuitive conclusion that “graduate elementary programs do worse, on average, …than undergraduate programs. Yet, despite research findings to the contrary, most school districts pay more for advanced degrees.

So, both experience and research indicate we can derive great value from new approaches to teacher preparation. Chalkbeat offers a compelling model being used in Detroit borrowing heavily from how doctors are trained.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of more attention being paid to how we train our children’s teachers and what we can do to attract and develop the best and brightest candidates for this critical profession. MBAE will be looking for opportunities to advance this issue in the year ahead.

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