State Board Approves New Principles To Strengthen Teacher Training
By KATHLEEN MEGAN
April 16, 2013
A new set of principles approved by the state Board of Education Monday aims to improve the caliber of future teachers by toughening training programs for educators.
The strategy also seeks to improve communication and cooperation between school districts and higher education programs.
"We have a system where the need for change is fairly clear because nobody is very satisfied with the way it's working now," said Allan Taylor, who has been chairman of the board but is awaiting confirmation of his reappointment.
He said that surveys have shown that new teachers "say they didn't really feel prepared to be teachers and the superintendents say the same thing about most of the people they hire as brand new teachers. Obviously, this isn't a good recipe for success."
The report notes that consideration might be given to requiring that applicants have a higher grade point average with the possibility of allowing waivers for some "exemplary" candidates. It also suggests that programs might consider recruitment and admissions policies that reflect the needs of areas with shortages.
"Teacher education programs produce many more elementary education teachers that the population or demographics support," Taylor said. But, he said, "We can't wave a wand and turn out secondary school science teachers."
The principles were developed over the past year by the Educator Preparation Advisory Council that was appointed by the state education board and is composed of representatives of higher education, school districts, unions, school administrators and others.
"There is a lot of fundamental cultural and institutional change embedded in this report," said Taylor, who is also a member of the advisory council. "It looks to a much more intensive and effective partnership between the education schools and the local school districts and it seeks to link teacher preparation to what the districts need."
The report does not provide specific requirements. Rather, the principles provide a framework for the advisory council's next job: coming up with new regulations to carry out the principles.
However, the report says that universities and colleges "should be held accountable for their programs' effectiveness in preparing teachers to enter and remain in the profession."
Robert Villanova, director of the executive leadership program at the UConn's Neag School of Education and an advisory council member, said the council's work "forced issues on the table for both higher ed and K-12 to look at together, to look for solutions … to get away from finger-pointing."
But, he added that "both sides will have to do some things differently." Villanova said the task will be to ensure that "these broad guidelines actually have teeth in practice."
Starting with admission standards, the principles state that teacher preparation programs must "actively recruit, admit, develop and retain only those teacher candidates with strong knowledge, skills, dispositions."
Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said "First of all we need to raise the bar… And, as we raise the bar, we need to ramp up our recruitment efforts. The two ideas are mutually reinforcing."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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