New Standards for Prep Providers

There are major changes brewing in the field of teacher prep. Over the next few years, every teacher training program in the country will have to decide how to respond to the Common Core State Standards. They’ll also be subject to annual rankings by the National Council on Teacher Quality, which in this year’s inaugural report roundly criticized the field for lacking rigor and failing to adequately prepare teachers for the job ahead.

The biggest change of all is probably the one you haven’t heard much about, yet: new accreditation standards for training programs, from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). They are the most likely to determine whether teacher training programs look significantly different in 2020 than they do today.

A brief recap: earlier this year, the two primary accrediting agencies for teacher preparation programs formally merged to form CAEP. The new organization’s goal: to set new accreditation standards that would not only raise expectations for the quality of teachers who graduate from accredited programs, but also raise the stature of the teaching profession as a whole.

Last week, those new standards were finalized and adopted. Since many states will adopt them wholesale, their potential to change teacher preparation across the country cannot be understated.

As written, programs must require that new teachers:

  • Come from the top third of their college classes (eventually)
  • Have more opportunities to practice teaching before entering a classroom full time
  • Receive training in the subjects where they are needed most
  • Are demonstrably effective in the classroom (according to data tracked by the program)

If the new standards are implemented with rigor and consistency, they will mark a major step forward for the teaching profession. But none of these outcomes are guaranteed. The CAEP standards will only be as successful if policymakers and practitioners enact them faithfully as written and strive to reach beyond the text for the spirit that motivated the new standards in the first place.

Here’s what to watch for over the next few years:

  • Are states holding traditional and alternate route programs to the same standards, while also providing enough flexibility for non-university programs to innovate, reduce costs and meet the challenges of serving high-need school districts? Are states developing the data systems necessary to link teachers back to their training programs to determine whether they were effective? And are they actually closing down programs that fail to consistently prepare strong teachers whose students achieve academic success?
  • Are districts and schools using their buying power to recruit new teachers only from the best programs available to them?
  • Are prospective teachers using the quality consumer information (from sources like CAEP, NCTQ and US News) to choose the programs that are selective, rigorous and successful at producing effective teachers?
  • Are teacher training programs and CAEP making good on their promise to make program quality data widely available? Is CAEP continuously improving its standards over time?

At TNTP, we are generally positive about the new standards. But there are two improvements we hope to see sooner rather than later. First, as we wrote in Leap Year, we believe that all new teachers should have to prove that they are effective in the classroom for 1-2 years before they are eligible for professional licensure. Even under the new CAEP standards, programs will continue to produce teachers whose effectiveness falls across a broad range. We can’t let entry requirements be a substitute for proof of on-the-job performance. Tennessee has courageously embraced this approach, and we hope to see it catch on in other states.

Second, the CAEP standards do not go far enough in requiring teacher training programs to prioritize the skills teachers need to succeed as beginners. Too many programs continue to rely on outdated curricula that researchers have not been able to link to improved student performance. Further, Irreplaceable teachers tell us that most training curricula are disconnected from the realities of the classroom. Yet in this area, the CAEP standards pulled their punches. We want to see standards that require all training programs to give teachers both the practical skills and the content knowledge necessary for students to succeed in higher education and the job market.

On the whole, the CAEP standards are a good first step. But they can’t be the only step. Let’s turn this into a march.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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