Throwing down the gauntlet

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Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, knows he can't rest on his laurels. Having worked with the National Governors Association to engineer the most rapid and thoroughgoing improvement of K12 standards in history, Wilhoit is now calling on the chiefs to overhaul teacher preparation. "The vast majority of teachers don't have the skill set" to teach to the Common Core, he bluntly told education representatives from 27 states yesterday.

This assertion isn't news. Well-regarded teacher educators, mathematicians, and even the recently elected chair of the CCSSO, Idaho's Tom Luna, have been saying much the same thing over the past year. What makes Wilhoit's speech notable is the fierce urgency of his demand of the chiefs — his current bosses and former peers (he previously served as Kentucky's chief) — to take on the politically tough work of holding teacher preparation programs accountable. Echoing one of our State Teacher Policy Yearbook goals, Wilhoit called on states to take program approval back from national accrediting agencies which "too often emphasize process over content." And regardless of the opposition they might face, Wilhoit said, state regulators should make sure that "no preparation program that is producing inferior teachers should continue to exist." Amen to that.

To build the will necessary to take this kind of action, Wilhoit recommends that states give the public data on teacher prep program performance. Perhaps it goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway: our National Review of Teacher Preparation Programs is aiming toward just the same goal. From the start, we've believed that transparency is the best disinfectant, and agree with Wilhoit that high-quality programs "should be out in the sunshine." Only that way can we invest in what works and close down what isn't — and thereby ensure that all teachers get the preparation they need and their students deserve.

—Arthur McKee