Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Teacher Educator's Role in Enhancing Teacher Quality

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Teacher Educator's Role in Enhancing Teacher Quality

Article excerpt

Common sense suggests a good teacher matters. Personal experiences with inspirational and challenging teachers reinforce this notion. Research has also shown some teachers have a more significant impact on student achievement than others (McAffrey, D.R., Lockwood, J.R., Koretz, D.L., & Hamilton, L.S., 2003; Rivkin, Haushek, & Kain, 2005; Rockoff, 2004). Teacher quality is seen as a key policy lever to narrow achievement gaps that exist along racial and economic lines. Ensuring the quality profile of the teacher workforce is crucial to extend the democratic mission of public schooling to an unprecedented number of students who are more diverse than at any point in US history.

Two recent publications, timed to go with the 2008 legislative sessions, underscore the importance of the teacher quality movement as part of the larger educational reform conversation. Education Week's Quality Counts 2008: Tapping into Teaching issue (Education Week, Jan. 10, 2008) and the National Council for Teacher Quality's (NCTQ) state-by-state Teacher Policy Yearbook (NCTQ, 2007) evaluate state policies and performance in enhancing teacher quality. These reports, aimed at policy makers, describe the teaching profession from 30,000 above ground. To those whose daily work is preparing quality teachers, the terms of the debate feel distant and removed. And, they are. Teacher preparation, particularly university-based teacher preparation, is seen as part of the problem and to be circumvented. Key players shaping the policy debate and funding initiatives are working from outside Schools of Education, and often outside universities altogether. In effect teacher educators have been marginalized and are taking part in their own marginalization. The activity and urgency around teacher quality challenge us to ask this central question: What is the teacher educator's role in enhancing teacher quality? We argue that a more systemic framing is needed, one that examines teacher quality from 30,000 above and on the ground. First, we review definitions and arguments that have framed the movement thus far.


Defining teacher quality has been both problematic and elusive. Three terms heard in the discussions are highly qualified teacher, effective teacher, and good teacher. These focus on teacher characteristics or qualifications, teaching outcomes, and teaching practices, respectively. None adequately captures the complexity of a system that supports teacher quality.

Legislatively, the federal law, No Child Left Behind (2001) defines highly qualified teacher as having the following qualifications: a bachelor's degree, a state teaching certification or a passing score on the state teacher licensing examination, and subject matter knowledge (Hess & Petrilli, 2006). Critiques of this definition emphasize the overly narrow focus on content preparation, the imprecision of measures for each qualification, and the variability across states to define when a teacher has met criteria. For example, given the wide variation in states' licensure requirements and pathways to certification, holding a state teaching license, though relatively easy to measure from state databases, does not say much about a teacher's knowledge or practice. Overall, the federal definition of highly qualified teacher sets a minimum base for teacher knowledge and focuses on input measures.

The term effective teacher generally refers to teachers' ability to foster student achievement. There is a long tradition of research on teacher effectiveness, dating back to the 1960s and 70s (Shulman, 1986). Much of this research examined specific teaching practices (e.g., teachers' questioning strategies) and correlated them with student learning gains. More recent and sophisticated extensions of this line of research include work done by Just for the Kids (http://www or by Marzano and colleagues at the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (Marzano, R. …

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