National Review Myth Buster #4: We are formal teacher preparation's best friend

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Our National Review of Teacher Prep is well under way.  We've been working hard to coordinate with colleges, universities and other state-based stakeholders to advance the review.  In spite of this outreach, myths and misrepresentations about our standards, methodology and motivations persist. In a series of PDQ posts, we are setting the record straight.  Last month we addressed several topics: 1) how institutions would not be penalized in our review for complying with faulty state laws or regs (7/13), 2) the nature of financial support for the review (7/14), and 3) claims that Teach For America is indirectly funding the review to accumulate evidence needed to end formal teacher preparation as we know it (7/15). Today's post reveals more about how we got to be teacher preparation's best friend.

We admit that in its early days, NCTQ was pretty lukewarm about formal teacher preparation. And there's no denying that we're a tough grader who doesn't shy away from "naming names" in our evaluation reports. But starting in 2006, over the course of examining the best preparation for elementary teachers in reading and then in mathematics, we had our "Eureka" moments.  We realized that the problem is not that formal preparation needs to be trimmed or eliminated — the problem is that formal preparation needs to be much, much better. Since it is not an exaggeration to describe much of current formal teacher preparation as a field in chaos, improving it depends on both painting a compelling picture of what strong preparation looks like and contrasting it to the status quo.   

Hence our method of articulating clear, measurable standards and evaluating programs against them.  We also disseminate resources (see here and here) from the best programs to help others improve. Sure, we wouldn't be too distraught if prospective teachers and hiring districts could be steered away from the weakest — often the ones feeding poorly prepared teachers into schools that serve the nation's most disadvantaged students — thereby leading to their closure. But we'd also be extremely distraught if the programs that we hope to showcase as exemplars don't thrive. We believe that many individuals in the community of teacher educators share our concerns and aspirations, although few will admit that to anyone external to the field.

We've said this before, but it bears repeating: while we are fans of Teach For America for the spark it's provided to education reform efforts, our vision of the field is that no superintendent would want or need to hire teachers — including those from TFA — with no preparation. Would a friend want anything less? 

Julie Greenberg