The state should ensure that teacher preparation programs provide teacher candidates with a high-quality clinical experience.
Commendably, Nebraska requires candidates to complete a full-day student teaching experience for one semester (at least 14 weeks) for any combination of subject endorsements and a field endorsement. The state requires a minimum of 10 weeks full time for each of two or more field endorsements.
However, Nebraska only requires that cooperating teachers have a minimum of three years of experience in the areas they are supervising. Also, the state not only allows student teaching to be conducted in approved Nebraska schools, but it also accepts experience from out-of-state schools approved by another state education agency or in similarly constituted English-speaking schools in another nation.
Nebraska Administrative Code 92-20-005.11
Ensure that cooperating teachers have demonstrated evidence of effectiveness as measured by student learning.
Nebraska's experience requirement for cooperating teachers is not sufficient. In addition to the ability to mentor an adult, cooperating teachers should also be carefully screened for their capacity to further student achievement. Research indicates that the only aspect of a student teaching arrangement that has been shown to have an impact on student achievement is the positive effect of selection of the cooperating teacher by the preparation program, rather than the student teacher or school district staff.
Explicitly require that student teaching be completed locally, thus prohibiting candidates from completing this requirement abroad.
Unless preparation programs can establish true satellite campuses to closely supervise student teaching arrangements, placement in foreign or otherwise novel locales should be supplementary to a standard student teaching arrangement. Outsourcing the arrangements for student teaching makes it impossible to ensure the selection of the best cooperating teacher and adequate supervision of the student teacher and may prevent training of the teacher on relevant state instructional frameworks.
Nebraska asserted that cooperating teachers are carefully selected by the institutions in cooperation with district administrators to ensure that they not only meet the experience requirement, but also they are effective teachers who are well suited to work effectively with the student teacher. This partnership effort results in a much stronger experience for candidates than a "factor" related to student achievement. In addition, faculty provide workshops for cooperating teachers to discuss program outcomes and evaluation expectations.
Nebraska contended that while NCTQ's expectation is that all candidates be placed in professional development schools in a local community, this is not practical, adequate or appropriate to meet Nebraska's standards for field-based/student teaching placements (i.e., demographics, size of school, type of school). The state explained that its out-of-state placements are established through direct contact with personnel in the placement district, and in many cases, supervising teachers continue to make the required onsite supervision visits. Institutions provide in-service and materials to ensure that the candidate's experience is consistent with both Nebraska's and the institution's expectations for candidate outcomes. If a college supervisor is unable to visit, direct contacts and additional in-service are provided to the professionals who will perform student teaching supervision. Technology is also utilized to support candidates who are out of state.
Nebraska added that while out-of-state placements are not very common, the state feels that many times these placements provide candidates with strong experiences because they represent a more diverse student population than some in-state placements can provide.
The state's point that it may be unduly difficult, if not impossible, for some of its programs to make local student teaching arrangements is well taken. The key issue is that programs must not cede responsibility for the selection of cooperating teachers or the supervision of candidates. In particular, programs that allow candidates to fulfill student teaching through study abroad are nearly always forfeiting essential oversight.