Magazine article State Legislatures

Teaching Our Teachers

Magazine article State Legislatures

Teaching Our Teachers

Article excerpt

Schools of education want some respect. And they're raising their standards as well as the standing of teachers to get it.

Building an education system without highly skilled teachers is like building a barn without nails: When the wind blows, it's bound to fall. As public education weathers ongoing storms, the teaching profession can no longer be ignored.

And ignored it has been. A look at the last decade of education reform reveals a lack of attention to the crucial role teachers play in a child's academic success. Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Columbia's Teachers College emphasizes that, as hard as we try, we cannot make reform teacher-proof. Class sizes, curriculum standards and discipline policies, for instance, are all important pieces of the education system. But, she says, "Ultimately, you can't get more kids learning at a higher level unless you have teachers who really know, not only their subject matter, but how to teach that kind of challenging material in lots of different ways to people who learn in different ways."

Two of the country's largest philanthropic institutions concerned with education policy apparently agree. The Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York have joined forces to support the new National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, which Darling-Hammond directs. The commission aims to turn public attention toward building a teaching force in all communities and all schools that can teach all children well - a task that, according to Darling-Hammond, has been "neglected in this country in this century." And one essential step, she says, toward improving teaching is the improvement of teacher education.


Schools of education have taken seriously the once comedic line "I can't get no respect." They produce a majority of the advanced degrees granted by universities, yet receive a smaller percentage of funds than other programs. This fact has led two national experts in the field of teacher education - Arthur Wise and Darling-Hammond - to refer to schools of education as the "cash cows" of the university system.

Still, respect doesn't arrive upon demand like a butler to a bell. Respect must be earned. And it appears that after decades of bell-ringing, some teachers of teachers have learned this lesson. Today, by accepting the challenge of meeting new and difficult national benchmarks, schools of education are raising the standards - and the standing - of teaching.

The cooperation between organizations steering teacher education reform is impressive. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) are three separate organizations providing a continuum of rigorous standards for teachers.

Traditionally, state departments of education set licensing standards for teachers. Recently, many states have handed this responsibility to state standards boards. Still, license requirements are generally set by a board that is not connected to teacher education programs, so college graduation requirements do not necessarily mirror licensure requirements. The problem becomes particularly cumbersome when people attend college in a state other than where they choose to teach. In this case, the person will probably have to complete additional coursework to get a teaching license.

Advanced certification - recognition of excellent teaching, often accompanied by a pay increase - requires yet another assessment not necessarily aligned with the two mentioned above. Until now.

Now states have the ability to latch onto a series of requirements and assessments that are all interrelated. Using the advanced certification requirements developed by the NBPTS as a springboard, a set of standards for teacher licensing and for teacher education programs have been developed by INTASC and NCATE respectively. …

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