America’s New Teachers… Inadequately Prepared A Study Says

According to a new study, America’s universities are failing to adequately train the people who become teachers each year.  The study by  National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) found that most teacher education programs are lacking. They studied more than 1,100 university education programs. The NCTQ blog said, “Our results show that most [programs] have a long way to go to get teachers classroom ready from day one.” The study points out that because of wave of baby boomer retirements, first-year teachers now teach around 1.5 million students every year. This is alarming because students taught by first-year teachers lose far too much ground academically compared with those taught by experienced teachers. 

A few highlights from the study:

  • It is far too easy to get into a teacher preparation program. Just over a quarter of programs restrict admissions to students in the top half of their class, compared with the highest-performing countries, which limit entry to the top third.
  • Fewer than one in nine elementary programs and just over one-third of high school programs are preparing candidates in content at the level necessary to teach the new Common Core State Standards now being implemented in classrooms in 45 states and the District of Columbia.
  • The “reading wars” are far from over. Three out of four elementary teacher preparation programs still are not teaching the methods of reading instruction that could substantially lower the number of children who never become proficient readers, from 30 percent to under 10 percent. Instead, the teacher candidate is all too often told to develop his or her “own unique approach” to teaching reading.

Today NPR’s Tell Me More talked about the quality of the education teachers are getting. Most teachers are not entering their first year prepared to function in the classroom. They are not teaching teachers how to teach the content (such as math)… or how to tackle different learning abilities or behavior issues in the classroom.  The information people learned in these teacher education programs was not particularly useful. The course of study hasn’t changed much for 50 years even though the classroom of today is much different than those of a generation or two ago. These programs haven’t kept up with the times.

Most every teacher says they weren’t prepared in their first year in the classroom. The biggest complaint, said the expert on NPR, was that there was not enough hands-on experience. Not only that, but a lot of first-year teachers wind up in the hardest to manage classrooms.

According to the NCTQ report, “The heart of the matter for the field of teacher education is that students taught by first-year teachers lose far too much ground. And it’s not just the students who suffer. First-year teachers deal with so much anxiety and exhaustion that many just crash and burn.”

International tests show that U.S. students are lagging behind other nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Northern Ireland in reading, math and science.* Experts blame budget cutbacks, entrenched poverty, crowded classrooms, shorter school years, greater diversity of students than in other countries. But teacher quality is the most important factor inside the classroom that affects student learning. The NCTQ study points out that high-performing nations, such as Finland, South Korea and Singapore, are all notable for their top-notch teacher training systems. All three draw candidates from at least the top-third of the college-going population.

Teachers should finish their educational programs with the skills that will make them more effective so they will function well in the classroom from day one, the report concludes.


Links You May Want to Visit to Find Out More:

You can read the original report (approx. 100 pages): A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Prep Programs

*See this article in the Washington Post: Here’s why other countries beat the U.S. in reading and math or go directly to the National Center for Educational Statistics to view the report yourself.

Read the NPR transcript: New Report Finds Many Teachers Aren’t Ready To Teach

Read the Washington Post article: University programs that train U.S. teachers get mediocre marks in first-ever ratings

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