Policy makers are powerful forces in shaping the quality of teacher education programs. Here are steps governors, state legislators, state and local boards of education, and other policy makers can take to improve the quality of teachers:
Make sure teaching standards are adequate.
Compare your state's teacher qualifications to those in other states and strengthen teacher standards if they are weak. (Use the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards as a guide.)
Write laws that improve teacher education.
"What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future" by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, offers a number of strategies for strengthening standards.
Require accreditation for your state's schools of education.
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium are leaders in raising standards for accreditation. Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, executive director of the commission, notes that states that undertook teacher preparation reform in the '80s showed impressive gains in student achievement.
Eliminate barriers to teacher mobility.
Collaborate with other states in tracking supply, demand, and quality data and issues. The National Governors Association is available to help states determine how best to use U.S. Department of Education Title II teacher quality enhancement grants and also to provide information about teacher preparation and other teacher quality issues.
Fill important shortage areas.
Make sure that hard-to-fill positions in math and science have teachers qualified in their subject matter. The Glenn Commission, headed by former Senator John Glenn, recommended that each state determine the textbook, training, and professional development needs of those teachers. It also encouraged incentive programs to reward exemplary teaching.
Encourage professionals to consider teaching as a second career.
Promote the creation of, and provide money for, mid-career programs at state teaching colleges, but don't approve a program based only on the speed of the program and number of teachers it can churn out. As Barnett Berry writes in "Quality Alternatives in Teacher Preparation: Dodging the Silver Bullet and Doing What Is Right for Students," high-quality programs pay for themselves because teachers stay in the profession and know how to teach.
Establish closer ties with schools of education and K-12 classrooms.
A National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) report says state policy makers have an obligation to intervene when teacher preparation programs are not producing competent teachers.
Loan forgiveness and grants can help put teachers in tough-to-staff urban and rural areas, which have been plagued with a teacher shortage. The Council of the Great City Schools offers reports and resources reflecting their particular interest in urban education.
Education Commission of the States. Heeding its motto, "Helping state leaders shape education policy," ECS provides studies on teacher quality and other education issues, tracks local, state, and federal actions, and helps implement policies to promote education.
National Conference of State Legislatures. The conference issues policy papers on a range of subjects, including teacher quality. The conference also tracks state actions on such issues as teacher quality.
In a featured GLEF interview, "On Teachers and Teaching," Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond says policy makers have a "huge role" to play in ensuring that every child is taught by a qualified teacher. Policymakers need to make sure wages are competitive, that there are high standards for teachers, that scholarships and loans are available for prospective teachers -- especially those who go into teacher-short inner cities and poor rural districts and those who teach subjects such as special education, math, science, and bilingual education.
Who Should Teach? Quality Counts 2000. This extensive Education Week magazine report provides a state-by-state analysis of teaching standards and licensure requirements as well as a grade on how well states are working to improve teacher quality. To view this resource, you must be a registered user on the Edweek site. Registration is free.