Students across the country have settled into another school year and many prospective teachers are in their first year of student teaching experience. Student teaching gives prospective teachers the opportunity to put theory into practice and ideally to learn the art of teaching from a skilled educator. Despite the importance of the student teaching experience, in some cases too little attention is paid to the quality of these programs. Some states are bravely tackling the arduous task of developing and refining teacher evaluation systems, but have yet to look carefully at the institutions and pre-service experiences that have the ability to deliver either exceptional or failing teachers. Rather than struggling to find the fairest way to identify, remediate, or ultimately remove bad teachers, wouldn’t it be far more beneficial for the profession and for students’ learning to ensure that only the very best teachers are earning certification and entering the classroom? (See DFER’s white paper, Ticket to Teach, to read some of our recommendations on reforming the profession here.)
In an attempt to more carefully examine the quality of pre-service training and education for teachers, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has begun a review of teacher preparation. In July, they released “Student Teaching in the United States.” The report and the larger review are controversial and have generated some backlash. But, if one can look past the defensiveness and posturing on all sides, the report suggests some helpful guidelines for teacher preparation programs and states to begin setting clearer and more rigorous training criteria for the benefit of students.