According to Teaching for a New World: Preparing High School Educators to Deliver College- and Career-Ready Instruction, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, preparing all students for success in college and careers requires a host of new skills that many middle and high school teachers do not currently develop during pre-service preparation or in-service professional development.

Historically, the federal government has taken on an extremely limited role with regard to pre-service teacher preparation. While there is a constant effort to improve and strengthen the Higher Education Act—the federal legislation that most directly affects teacher education—the provisions have focused primarily on the development of a few model programs and have been limited and weakly funded. In order to transform pre-service preparation to meet the needs of the twenty-first-century students, the federal government must take bolder action and truly invest in the training of teacher candidates.

Specifically, the federal government can—and should—encourage the creation of performance-based assessments that fairly and accurately measure the effectiveness of individual teacher candidates as well as teacher preparation programs. The results can assist teachers improve their performance. It should also work to increase the supply of high-quality teachers by supporting effective programs and closing ineffective programs.

Through the stimulus package, the Obama administration has made clear its commitment to developing more robust data systems that allow for teacher and student information to be linked for several reasons. This is an important first step. The federal government should continue to support statewide longitudinal data systems that require teacher performance data linked to and shared with teacher preparation programs so they can track the effectiveness of their candidates and improve their pre-service preparation.

On the first day new teachers walk into their classrooms, they need to be prepared to deliver high-quality education to every student in the room. There are a few programs that are producing candidates ready to do just this, but the nation has a long way to go for this to be the norm rather than the exception. Until the United States transforms teacher education, too many students will continue to receive an inadequate education with devastating personal and societal consequences. It is time for a dedicated commitment at all levels to revamp teacher education and put both the nation’s students and teachers on the path toward much improved academic results.