TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Tune in to NCTQ (April 2015): Teacher prep

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The surprising news about Russ Whitehurst's departure from Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy, a center he had ably led since 2009, has us scratching our heads as much as anyone else in the DC policy community.

As an organization, NCTQ is very grateful to Whitehurst for his continuing work on NCTQ's Audit Panel, where he's helped make sure the ratings processes for the Teacher Prep Reviewmeet the highest standards. But of course his justly earned claim to fame is his having founded the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences. And it was as director there that he helped lay the intellectual foundation for far stronger teacher preparation and classroom instruction than we have today.

One of the main obstacles to improving teacher effectiveness has long been the meager research base on what teachers should be trainedto be able to do. The relative paucity of research in what works in teaching as compared to, for example, medicine, has paved the way for the field's abdication of training altogether.

But while there remains much we do not know about what constitutes good teaching, there in fact is a core set of strategies, identified through high-quality research, that every teacher should master. Russ had the IES assemble and pressure-test this research, and then put out highly readable practice guides highlighting the teaching strategies that have the greatest demonstrated impact. Thanks to him, teaching and teacher prep now have some of the blocks around which the profession could be built.

Unfortunately, as we've found in our own past research on training in classroom management and our upcoming report on the fundamentals of instruction, these practice guides have gone largely ignored by teacher educators. But by publicly rating programs on how well they train teachers to use the strategies in the practice guides, we aim to draw the field's attention back to the strong research contained in the practice guides and firmly ensconce Whitehurst's legacy in the training of new teachers.