Studying teacher prep: the more, the merrier

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The word is out that the National Academy of Education and George Washington University have partnered to launch an extensive research project entitled "The Evaluation of Teacher Education Programs." The project is led by GW's dean, Michael Feuer, and the panel overseeing it includes such heavy hitters as Deborah Ball, dean of the University of Michigan School of Education, and Jeanne Burns, who has helped make Louisiana a leader in the use of value-added data to assess teacher preparation program effectiveness.

The panel's aims are to "synthesize research . . . about existing approaches to evaluate teacher education program quality" and establish a "design framework for new and innovative approaches." So it sounds like the panel's leaders agree with us that state approval and accreditation processes at the very least need a long, hard look, insofar as these processes currently do not distinguish between strong and weak programs. And it seems that they also agree with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who called on teacher prep to consider major structural changes rather than mere "evolutionary tinkering." These are good signs indeed.

Further scrutiny into teacher preparation is exactly what this country needs if we are serious about giving teachers the tools they and their students need to succeed. That's why we have published ten reports over the past seven years on teacher preparation, and why we have spent $2 million developing the standards and methods for our upcoming national review. But in the end, the point of all of this work is to determine which preparation programs are already doing a good job readying teachers for the classroom, and how we can get other programs to emulate them. The stakes for the 1.5 million students being taught by new teachers every year are too high for anything less.

—Arthur McKee