A Measured Approach to Improving Teacher Preparation

Reports & Briefs | | January 28, 2011
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Over the next five years, more than a million new teachers will enter public school classrooms. But the system in place to produce these teachers—supported by an ever-expanding set of federal financial aid programs and multimillion-dollar federal grants—offers no guarantees of quality for anyone involved, from the college students who often borrow thousands of dollars to attend teacher preparation programs to the districts, schools, and children that depend on good teachers.

"Simply put, the nation's thousands of teacher preparation programs are good at churning out teachers but far less successful at ensuring that those teachers meet the needs of public schools and students," say the authors of a new Education Sector policy brief. In A Measured Approach to Improving Teacher Preparation, analysts Chad Aldeman, Kevin Carey, Erin Dillon, Ben Miller, and Elena Silva examine the way the United States currently prepares teachers and offers some specific suggestions on how to improve it.

The time is right, the authors argue. Once again, the reauthorization of federal education legislation appears to be on the table. And momentum to reform teacher preparation is gaining at both the state and national levels.

In this brief, the authors propose a three-part strategy to improve teacher preparation:

  1. Create a new federal framework for assessing and improving teacher preparation programs, one that "encourages accurate and honest reporting on outcomes-based indicators of quality."
  2. Establish a new set of competitive grants to encourage states and institutions to "make ambitious changes to how, and how rigorously, they monitor, evaluate, and improve their teacher preparation programs." Under current law, the authors note, states have the responsibility to hold their institutions accountable, but do not have the corresponding capacity or incentive to do so.
  3. Develop a new strategy to streamline existing financial aid programs and better align those programs with current efforts to improve the quality of the teacher work force. The authors suggest that "this should involve eliminating TEACH Grants, an ineffective pre-service grant program, and using those resources to expand debt forgiveness benefits for high-quality classroom teachers.