Accountability, Transparency

Good Guidelines Can Foster Growth: A Teacher’s Perspective on ED Teacher Prep Regulations

Good Guidelines Can Foster Growth: A Teacher’s Perspective on ED Teacher Prep Regulations

This post is by David Edelman. He is a 2015-2017 Hope Street Group national teacher fellow and a peer collaborative teacher at Union Square Academy for Health Sciences in New York City, where he provides instructional coaching, facilitates professional learning opportunities for staff and teaches high school classes in Social Studies, Economics, Participation in Government and AP U.S. History.

When I entered the teaching profession just over 10 years ago, I expected that my job duties and responsibilities would remain consistent until retirement. I am thankful to have played a part in helping to expand the roles and opportunities available to teachers within New York City’s Department of Education, and am excited to now work with willing institutions of higher education to align NYC’s thoughtful Teacher Career Pathway to teacher preparation.

My theory is this: if pre-service teachers gain exposure to teacher leadership initiatives—and the demonstrated skills of master teachers—early on, the next generation of teachers will experience education’s collaborative nature, see and seize opportunities for advancement, and receive support from teachers most qualified to lead adult learning. Given my experience, I believe that the successful preparation of new teachers requires investing in experienced teachers to lead their peers, and to exchange feedback about what’s working and what needs improvement.

Finally published in October 2016, “to help ensure that new teachers are ready to succeed in the classroom and that every student is taught by a great educator,” the new U.S. Department of Education (ED) teacher preparation regulations require states to report annually on the performance of educator preparation programs—including institutes of higher education and alternative certification programs—based on a combination of:

  • Employment outcomes: New teacher placement and three-year retention rates in high-need schools and in all schools.
  • New teacher and employer feedback: Surveys on the effectiveness of preparation.
  • Student learning outcomes: Impact of new teachers as measured by student growth, teacher evaluation, or both.
  • Assurance of specialized accreditation: Evidence of producing high-quality candidates.

I’m heartened that ED gathered input from stakeholders including classroom teachers to finalize these regulations, since practicing educators do know best what future educators need. In that spirit, my fellow Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellows and I led conversations with teachers across the country and identified these same indicators of teacher preparation program quality as those that matter most to current classroom teachers. I was pleased to see that the Secretary of Education John King recently shared our report, On Deck: Preparing the Next Generation of Teachers, which details the findings from our more than 2,000 conversations and surveys with peers.

I hope the regulations create transparency in states, and stimulate mutually beneficial dialogue between experienced teachers and teacher preparation programs. I anticipate that access to these data points about teacher prep program quality, including graduates’ retention and measured impact in the profession, will help prospective educators make informed decisions about the program that is best for them.

But my commendation of these regulations comes with a caveat: that the collection and availability of this information—therefore, increasing prep program accountability—will truly empower programs to modify their offerings to best prepare the next generation of teachers to serve America’s students. With education systems nationwide facing questions about teacher shortages and attrition rates, we need to support teacher prep programs in enhancing their curriculum and strengthening clinical training through thoughtful partnerships. Collaborating with schools and districts can help ground programs in what’s really going on in classrooms, ensuring they’re equipping aspiring educators with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the profession, and that the pathways to leadership are illuminated.

Evaluating colleges of education and other routes to certification by multiple measures should foster transparency but ultimately let prospective teachers make meaning from the numbers. As these regulations go into effect, teacher preparation programs should increasingly focus on answering both, “How can we best prepare teachers for their first day in their own classroom?” and “How can we best prepare teachers for a long and fulfilling career in teaching and learning?”