Report recommends federal government provide incentives for the development of teacher education programs in urban, rural communities
Borrowing a page from the medical community's use of teaching hospitals, education experts and some members of Congress are exploring a similar approach by calling for inner-city teaching centers that would offer quality professional development to improve learning outcomes for students.
"As it does in medicine, the federal government should provide incentives for the development of high-quality teacher education programs in urban and poor rural communities," says the National Academy of Education, a New York City-based center that released a groundbreaking report on the subject last month. Such programs would provide state-of-the-art training to students, current teachers and prospective teachers.
With 30 percent of instructors leaving the field after five years, teachers also need financial incentives to stay in the profession, the academy says. It recommends expansion of scholarships and loan forgiveness for those who take hard-to-fill vacancies in certain academic subjects and school locations. To receive benefits, teachers would have to serve in these capacities for at least four years.
"Only when we implement these recommendations will education do its part to close the achievement gap, give poor and minority students a level playing field and improve the performance of our schools," said NeI Noddings, the academy president. "Teachers are a scarce resource in America today, and one that is distributed unevenly."
Several members of Congress, including a Congressional Black Caucus member, welcomed the report's findings and said they merit serious attention.
"Teachers must have both knowledge of content and knowledge of teaching and learning to be prepared for today's diverse student population," said Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa. Without highly qualified teachers, students - particularly low-income youth - face major obstacles to success, he added.
"Teachers must be prepared with a base of professional knowledge, including strategies and understanding of how to teach all students," Fattah said.
In its report, "A Good Teacher in Every Classroom: Preparing the Highly Qualified Teachers Our Children Deserve," the academy also endorsed these additional improvements in teacher education:
* Congress should fund a national performance-based testing program to assess teachers' knowledge and skills. Lawmakers then would give states incentives to use these results in their licensing processes.
* Traditional and alternative teacher education programs need more careful evaluation and should receive accreditation only if their programs provide students with a core set of knowledge.
* Advocates should push for federal funding increases to bring teacher education support on par with other clinically based professional programs such as nursing or engineering.
* States should close poor-performing teacher education programs and better monitor the work of these institutions.
* States and the federal government should support mentoring and coaching programs to help new teachers.
Access to quality teacher programs is "haphazard" at best, the report says. "At worst, the current non-system results in too many poorly prepared and unprepared teachers employed disproportionately in schools serving large numbers of low-income and minority students. …