This week the National Council on Teacher Quality released its first review of the nation’s teacher preparation programs, which focuses on the need for a world-class teacher training system. The timing of this report is relevant as Fulton County Schools plans to hire approximately 500 new teachers this summer, many of them recent graduates of college and university teacher preparation programs.
I believe there are five key levers that together enable student academic success – teacher and principal quality, a rigorous and coherent curriculum, the engagement of students, parent involvement and district resources/organizational efficiency. The first tenet – teacher and principal quality – is one of the most important factors in improving student achievement. We need the best and the brightest teaching and leading our children.
We expect that new teachers should come to our schools prepared to teach students our curriculum in a rigorous, relevant and meaningful way and that their teacher preparation program should have instilled these skills. With the new College and Career Readiness Performance Index just recently released by the state of Georgia, the bar is being raised for student performance, and so is the bar for teachers. Teachers must be proficient in content areas so they can guide their students in reaching these higher standards.
The council’s review also highlights a need for more in-depth classroom management practices in teacher preparation programs. Classroom management is an area in which beginning teachers, including those in Fulton County, often cite as their biggest challenge. Time and experience often helps these new teachers learn effective strategies, but our colleges and universities can do more to prepare them.
An additional focus of the review is the need for better preparation for early childhood teachers in how to teach young and struggling students to read as well as do math. It’s long been known about the importance of learning to read at an early age, but science, technology, engineering and mathematics education is a growing area. All teachers, especially those at the elementary level, play a part in grounding their students in math and science knowledge so they can be set up for continued success in those areas.
In Georgia, the Professional Standards Commission is revitalizing the way it assesses teacher preparation programs and Fulton County Schools supports the development of clear criteria for evaluating the quality of teaching candidates. Since the advent of the No Child Left Behind legislation, the weight of transforming the American educational system has been shouldered by K-12 school systems. Through the commission of the review, teacher preparation programs are now nationally evaluated, with the result of a strengthened and improved market of new teachers.
A copy of the report is at www.nctq.org/dmsStage/Teacher_ Prep_Review_2013_Report.
Robert M. Avossa, Ed.D.
Fulton County Schools Superintendent