Education International
Education International

US: Boosting standards for teacher preparation

published 24 January 2013 updated 29 January 2013

Raising the bar for students raises it for their teachers as well. To help teachers meet this challenge, one of EI’s affiliates in the United States, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has developed a proposal for improving the quality of the teaching profession.

AFT’s report, "Raising the Bar - Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession", recommends a move towards a systemic approach to preparing teachers and a more rigorous threshold to ensure that every teacher is ready to teach.

A bar exam for teachers “We must do away with the common rite of passage whereby new teachers are thrown into classrooms, expected to figure things out, and left to see if they - and their students - sink or swim,” said AFT President Randy Weingarten.

A 2012 survey of 500 novice public school teachers in the US, shows that one in three reported feeling unprepared on their first day. Teachers said the main problem in their training programme was a failure to prepare them for the challenges of teaching in the ‘real world’.

Additionally, new teachers were more likely to feel unprepared if they taught large numbers of special needs students or taught in a low-income or low-performing district.

“Instead of the current hodge-podge approach to teacher certification and licensing, we propose that all prospective teachers in the US take a rigorous bar exam that gauges mastery of subject-matter knowledge and demonstrates competency in how to teach it,” Weingarten added.

High standards and practical experience Setting a bar for entry into the teaching profession requires strengthening and aligning many components, AFT report points out.

Standards for admission to and completion of teacher-preparation programmes should be appropriately high. Curricula should address the specific knowledge and skills that competent new teachers need.

Moreover, preparation must include extensive experience in actual classrooms working with accomplished teachers. Mastery should be demonstrated not just through a written exam, but also through demonstrations of a candidate's ability to teach.

High standards for entry into the profession should apply to all prospective teachers, whether they pursue traditional or alternative certification.

Educators must take the lead The report highlights three main changes needed to truly improve teacher preparation and, by extension, teaching and learning:

  • Involvement of all stakeholders, including teacher education institutions, schools, state education boards, governments and education unions. This will ensure teacher-preparation standards, programmes and assessments are practically effective;
  • Multidimensional assessment. That is, it must include both subject and pedagogical knowledge and demonstration of teaching performance;
  • Primary responsibility must reside with teachers and teacher educators.

To read the whole report, “Raising the Bar—Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession”, please click here