Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Standards and Teacher Quality: Entering the New Millennium

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Standards and Teacher Quality: Entering the New Millennium

Article excerpt

Candidates at NCATE-accredited schools of education in the new millennium will experience a focus on performance unlike any seen by candidates in the 20th century, according to Mr. Wise and Ms. Leibbrand. Subject-matter knowledge alone is not enough to ensure effective teaching.

IN REVIEWING the literature of education reform from the last decade, one finds a sharp difference of opinion regarding how to improve teacher quality. Members of the profession and many policy makers believe that teachers should be well grounded in the content they plan to teach and have a firm grasp of how to teach it effectively to a diverse community of students. The 'how to teach' part includes knowledge of child and adolescent development, instructional strategies for various types of learners, assessment and evaluation strategies, classroom management, strategies for teaching those of differing abilities, and so on. This research-based knowledge is gained through formal study and supervised practice over time in clinical settings.

A few members of the education community and some policy makers, on the other hand, have a different view. They claim that teachers need only subject-matter knowledge in order to teach well. They argue, in effect, for an end to state licensing of teachers ' for complete deregulation of entry to teaching.

These two views lead to wide variances in policy formation at all levels. Moreover, both views have support in teacher policy development, which gives a schizophrenic character to policy efforts and results.

The 'deregulators' would allow those who hold any bachelor's degree to enter the classroom. This group is not clear about how it expects decision makers to judge whether candidates have mastered subject-matter knowledge, since they are skeptical of content-related portions of teaching tests. The group does support the measures some states have taken to handle teacher shortages: issuing 'emergency certification' to allow individuals with little or no teacher preparation to assume responsibility as full-fledged teachers. Such provisions were quite popular in the 1960s. And despite their disastrous consequences in the 1960s and 1970s, they are once again being resurrected to serve as a quick fix to a complicated problem as teacher shortages become more severe in certain subjects and in certain geographic areas.

However, there is a growing awareness that emergency certification has not raised student achievement. Now the current Administration is calling for 'fully licensed' teachers in the classroom as a provision in the proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The significance of this proposal cannot be overestimated. For the first time ever, a federal Administration has called for fully licensed teachers to teach our nation's children. Why? Research has demonstrated that teachers who are fully licensed are more effective than those who are not.1 On the state and local levels, steps are being taken to support teacher knowledge, teacher development, and clinical practice. States that believe in the value of teacher preparation devise policies governing accreditation, state licensing, and meaningful professional development. Institutions that value teacher preparation demonstrate their commitment by meeting professional accreditation standards, by instituting and supporting professional development schools or clinical practice schools, by creating programs that help candidates develop competencies assessed through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and in other ways that embrace teaching as a knowledge-based profession.

On the other hand, states and districts that have a problem with teacher supply or that do not see the value of teacher preparation create quick alternative routes to teaching. The goal is to bypass 'those education courses,' which are seen as unnecessary hurdles that teacher candidates must jump over in order to gain a license. …

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