New Report Says Quality Teacher-Prep Programs Require Strong Clinical-Practice Component

A new report from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) calls for increased emphasis on practical experience in the classroom as a critical element of teacher preparation. In addition to the stress on providing clinical experiences for teacher candidates, the report urges stronger partnerships between ed-prep programs and school districts, improved candidate selection and placement, and a stronger focus on both content knowledge and pedagogy. You can read the full report, entitled “Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice:  A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers,” at this Web link:  http://www.ncate.org/Public/ResearchReports/NCATEInitiatives/BlueRibbonPanel/tabid/715/Default.aspx.

The NCATE report drew a favorable review from AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Rather than engage in a false choice about whether to continue the status quo or eliminate college-based teacher education programs altogether, NCATE wisely has focused on what is best for students,” Weingarten commented.

“NCATE’s call for prospective teachers to receive more clinical experience is a smart first step in a profession that sees nearly half of teachers exit in their first five years of teaching. The recommendation that teacher education programs work more collaboratively with school districts will help ensure that teacher preparation and hiring are more closely aligned to the needs of communities. Other recommendations—from establishing new research standards to revamping higher education staffing and instruction—also will help upgrade and update teacher education programs.

“NCATE recognizes that improving teacher education programs will require a broad partnership that includes teachers unions, school districts and colleges of education. We urge all stakeholders to look past the ideological arguments and work collaboratively, as NCATE and AFT have done, to improve public education. AFT has taken this approach in our effort to revamp teacher development and evaluations, which is now moving forward in nearly 60 school districts,” Weingarten said.

NCATE’s report notes that there are many excellent clinically based programs already. “However,” it notes, “the nation needs an entire system of excellent programs, not a cottage industry of pathbreaking initiatives.”

Here in Texas, the legislature has yet to address seriously the need for a stronger clinical-experience component in the preparation of teacher candidates. A bill passed last session calls for upgrading ed-prep programs, but the emphasis is less on prescribing up-front standards for the quality of those pre-service programs and more on holding the programs accountable after the fact for the achievement level of students taught by their graduates.