Improving teacher effectiveness is hgh on the list of most education reformers in colorado, as it is nationally. Effective teaching in the elementary years is of vital importance to ensure not only that children master fundamental skills, but that performance gaps narrow rather than widen beyond repair. We now know that disadvantaged students can catch up academically with their more advantaged peers if they have great elementary teachers several years in a row.
It is for these reasons that the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a nonpartisan research and advocacy group dedicated to the systemic reform of the teaching profession, evaluates the adequacy of preparation provided by undergraduate education schools. These programs produce 70 percent of our nation’s teachers. We think it is crucial to focus specifically on the quality of preparation of future elementary teachers in the core subjects of reading and mathematics.
Teacher preparation programs, or “ed schools” as they are more commonly known, do not now, nor have they ever, enjoyed a particularly positive reputation. Further, there is a growing body of research demonstrating that teacher preparation does not matter all that much and that a teacher with very little training can be as effective as a teacher who has had a lot of preparation. As a result, many education reformers are proposing that the solution to achieving better teacher quality is simply to attract more talented people into teaching, given that their preparation does not really matter.
In several significant ways, we respectfully disagree. NCTQ is deeply committed to high-quality formal teacher preparation, but, importantly, we are not defenders of the status quo. We also do not believe that it is a realistic strategy to fuel a profession with three million members nationally by only attracting more elite students. Yes, we need to be much more selective about who gets into teaching, and we strenuously advocate for that goal. But even smart people can become better teachers, particularly of young children, if they are provided with purposeful and systematic preparation.
NCTQ has issued two national reports on the reading and mathematics preparation of elementary teachers in undergraduate education schools. The first, What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren’t Learning was released in May 2006.1 The second, No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America’s Education Schools, followed just over two years later.2 These reports provide the methodological foundations for this analysis of teacher preparation in every undergraduate program in Colorado.