Capacity gap in action

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In Teacher Prep Review 2014, NCTQ called out the “capacity gap”. This is the gap between the increasingly rigorous college and career ready standards required in classrooms and the content mastery of these same standards by teacher candidates upon completion of a teacher prep program. As a nation we are calling for our students to be competitive with their international peers, but, can our teachers provide adequate instruction to help our students reach mounting expectations?

As a student currently in a teacher preparation program, I can vouch that these increasingly rigorous standards adapted across the nation are referenced in classes and lectures are devoted to their content. But I can also say, not enough is done to make sure we (teacher candidates) know the knowledge we expect our students to master.

It was 2010, I was just 16 years old, sitting in a stuffy classroom learning AP US History in the period just after lunch. This was my most cherished 51 minutes of the day; it was where I discovered I wanted to become a history teacher.  I loved the class, received full AP credit for the course and, upon coming to college, that score counted for both general US History courses required of Secondary Education – Social Sciences majors. At 18, I thought 6 free credits was a gold mine, but at 22 I sit here about to enter the classroom to teach US History and I realize that the last time I “mastered” this content, I was the same age as my future students.

To my university, I fulfilled the requirement. To my students, if I don’t seek out this information elsewhere, I will fail them.

Imagine – your son’s calculus teacher hasn’t taken calculus since she was 18. Your daughter’s chemistry teacher last took the class at 17. Feeling confident?

This is the capacity gap in action.

No one is arguing that holding students to a higher level of rigor is a mistake. But if we don’t start holding teacher candidates accountable for mastery of content, we not only set them up for failure, but we also provide our children, the future of this nation, with lessons based on last night’s Wikipedia search and generalized textbook information.