Important Trends in Teacher Preparation: The Experts Share Their Thoughts
C. Emily Feistritzer
President, National Center for Education Information
There has been a tremendous shift in the profile of people studying to be teachers. I don't think it's caught on quite yet just how dramatic the shift has been. But a survey we did last year of schools, colleges, and departments of education that prepare teachers showed that three out of ten people who were prepared to teach in 1999 actually began their preparation to teach at the post-baccalaureate level. So the old notion that high school students go to college and major in education and become teachers, and that's the pool, is a very old notion.
We're really seeing a dramatic shift to older people going into teaching. We're seeing more men going into teaching, mostly from the military. We're seeing actually more minorities going into teaching. We're seeing mid-career switchers that are interested in teaching. And older people, for example, are much more interested in teaching in high-demand areas of the country, such as inner cities and outlying rural areas than young, white females who are majoring in education and coming out of schools of education.
David G. Imig
President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)
One of the most intriguing developments in teacher education over the last few years has been the emergence of the professional development school. It is a structure that in some sense serves as an exemplar or a model institution between the university and the K-12 school setting. It is a K-12 school, but it is a school that really has four purposes: It is a school that on the one hand serves as a model or a demonstration site. In this school, good practice takes place. A second thing that a professional development school does is help provide a venue for beginning teachers -- for students in teacher education -- to really understand how to become a good teacher, to observe good practices, to watch exemplary or outstanding teachers.
A third thing that occurs in a professional development school is very robust professional development. This is a site to which a practicing teacher in a school district can come and see outstanding teaching taking place, to examine issues. If you will, it's a derivative of the old teacher center notion, but here in the professional development school is a center for good teaching for practicing teachers. And finally the fourth -- and probably the most controversial, and yet a most important function of a professional development school -- is a place that shows that it can make a difference -- a difference in the lives of kids. It's a place that takes on the challenges of demonstrating with a wide diversity of the student population that they in fact can promote student learning.
Arthur E. Wise
President, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
Technology has revolutionized every other industry segment and component of our society, economy, and culture and yet has not done so in education, although I think that that revolution is near. And consequently, I think it is important that teachers be prepared not only to use today's technology but also to think systematically about that and analytically about it because obviously the technology is going to continue to change and evolve. And if we are to effectively integrate today's technology and tomorrow's technology and instruction, then educators need to be well prepared to work with it.
Professor, Stanford University: School of Education
An interesting and little-known fact is that the better prepared teachers are, the longer they're likely to stay in teaching and the more likely they are actually to enter teaching. So, teachers who are coming through these new five-year teacher education models that give a bachelor's degree in a content area, plus a master's in teaching and a full year of student teaching, are very rigorous and very tightly coupled, often with the training in a professional development school.
A very high rate of these folks go into teaching and remain. Usually, more than 90 percent enter the profession, and of those, about 90 percent are still there several years later. Those who come through the shorter, summertime "learn-to-teach" routes leave at much higher rates -- for example, 70 percent are gone within three years -- making it actually less expensive to train a teacher more thoroughly on the front end than to continually replace teachers who come in and out with very little preparation.
The reason is kind of obvious for anyone who's been in classrooms for any length of time: Teaching is really hard. Think about how hard it is to manage a two-hour birthday party for thirty kids, and then imagine what you need to do to actually accomplish learning goals with those kids over a long period of time -- you can begin to get a glimpse of how much skill is really needed for teaching.
So many people who are underprepared get discouraged. They want to do a good job. They care about the kids. They're often coming into teaching because they do feel a sense of mission, and if they don't have the tools, then it's very easy to get discouraged and to feel they can't be competent and effective. Of course, the classroom then is not a very pleasant place if the kids are not learning and behaving, and that's one of the big things that drives people out of teaching. We'd be much better off to invest in high-quality preparation and have very effective career teachers in a stable teaching force than trying to be penny-wise and pound-foolish and not invest on the front end where it's so essential to be sure that teachers have the tools they need.