Trump should bolster teacher prep programs to aid urban communities
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During the campaign, Mr. Trump  pledged that, as President, he would take action to help urban families and communities. As a parent, lifelong educator and founder of an alternative teacher preparation program, Urban Teachers, I submit that one of the best ways to support urban communities is through improving education.

Today, national graduation rates are at an all-time high, but these rates lag among urban and minority students. Major urban areas have graduation percentage rates in the 60’s and 50’s.

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This trend is compounded on a global scale — American 15-year olds have not made progress in math, reading or science in the international study, the Program for International Student Assessment. Their counterparts in industrialized nations, like Japan, Finland, and Canada have progressed.

This outcome is unacceptable. Politicians on both sides of the aisle can agree that, regardless of their zip code or household income, every student should have access to an excellent education — one that that prepares them for success in a rapidly-changing economy and society.

The reality is that, at its core, public education can only fulfill its promise if every student can benefit from teachers who are invested and well prepared. According to the National Center for Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) 2016 Teacher Prep Review, more than 90 percent of current teacher preparation programs accept teachers without comprehensive knowledge of that teacher’s effectiveness.

Since the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, speculation has increased surrounding the Trump administration’s education priorities. Often, school choice, lower class size, and requests for additional funding are the focal points of student achievement efforts.

While each of these elements can play a role, ultimately, there is no better investment than systematically improving teacher quality. 

Creating a strong pipeline of highly motivated, effective teachers represents both the greatest challenge and imperative to education improvement. Today, teacher quality is uneven, particularly in the lowest income school districts cities and rural areas.

According to University of Pennsylvania Researcher Richard Ingersoll, educators who don’t have a certification in their subject area teach 27 percent of core academic classes in “high-poverty” high schools. By contrast, only 14 percent of teachers at “low-poverty” schools fall into the same category.

This issue can be traced back to the lack of accountability that exists across traditional and alternative teacher preparation programs.

As Secretary-designate DeVos prepares to take the reins from outgoing Secretary John King, I urge her and the administration to prioritize the advancement of teacher quality in U.S. schools. Over the past several years, there have been efforts to increase accountability for administrators, teachers and students.

It’s time to hold teacher preparation programs accountable, which will ensure that students in every U.S. classroom have access to quality education.

Transforming our teacher preparation model is one of the most powerful tools to improve the state of public education. Fortunately, there are now efforts to elevate teaching to new levels of rigor.

In his campaign, President-elect Trump  recognized the need to elevate the profession. Based on the models that currently exist, there are three key principles that should be applied at the national level.

1.     Elevate accountability. To ensure that we’re producing effective teachers, certification should hinge on multiple measures. Observational data should be a mandatory criterion. According to the 2016 NCTQ Teacher Prep Review, “only five percent of [teacher prep] programs incorporate the elements of a quality student teaching experience and ... just two-fifths require a supervisor to perform five observations with feedback.”

2.     Increase the barrier to entry of teacher preparation programs. This month’s NCTQ Review also reported that, “only a quarter of programs limit applicants to the top half of college-goers based on GPA or ACT/SAT scores.” By elevating the criteria for admittance and enforcing academic excellence, we can elevate the caliber of the applicant and the overall prestige of the profession.

3.     Increase the rigor of teacher preparation requirements and graduation criteria. All teacher preparation programs should include clinical instruction and classroom experience. Prior to receiving certification, student-teachers should be required to demonstrate their craft in the classroom, as well as student progress. Elevating these requirements will ensure that more qualified and effective teachers are entering the workforce.

 

Strengthening teacher preparation program standards and creating a more selective teacher preparation process is critical to improving teacher quality and student success. In 2017, the Trump administration will have the opportunity to make practical, data-driven reforms to improve access to high-quality education across the nation.

As the administration looks to invest in urban communities, we hope it will invest in the improvement of our country’s teacher preparation programs. Doing so will provide our children with the opportunity to learn from qualified teachers committed to giving their students the best education possible. 

 

Jennifer Green is the CEO of Urban Teachers, a leading alternative teacher preparation program. 


 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.