Good parameters make good partners

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Edweek has an article out on efforts afoot to improve student teaching, the all-important apprenticeship phase that traditional teacher candidates go through before being certified. As the article notes, teacher prep programs have to work closely with school districts to make sure that their candidates are paired with effective mentors.

Collaboration demands setting parameters. But the reality is that many teacher prep programs are flooding their local districts with student teachers (far more than districts will even be able to hire). No wonder, then, that last year we found that only 14 percent of teacher prep programs ensure their student teachers get good mentor teachers. The sheer volume of teacher candidates means that programs have a "dog of a time," as one dean put it, finding good placements.

So perhaps districts need to set the parameters for teacher prep programs, particularly since it's in the districts' interests to groom the next generation of teachers the right way. We call this establishing "clinical capacity." Here's what it would look like:

In a district with as many teachers as in the above example, teacher prep programs might ask to place literally thousands of student teachers. A school district that set an overall ceiling on the number of student teachers it would accept would change the dynamic. If programs knew that no more than a fraction of the current number of candidates in their programs would be able to get placed in local school districts going forward, then they would probably be a lot more choosy as to who they would admit into their programs in the first place. And that would not only improve the quality of candidates, but it would improve the quality of the training candidates receive as well.

--Sarah Brody