The crucial challenges of recruiting, preparing and retaining teachers has gotten short shrift in the reform debates over the last few years, despite the fact that effective teachers will be crucial to the success of a range of reforms currently being implemented in California schools, such as the Common Core standards.
A new report from EdSource, titled Preparing World Class Teachers: Essential Reforms of Teacher Preparation and Credentialing in California, identifies seven key challenges that the state must address to ensure an effective teaching force – and the most promising strategies to address them at a local and statewide level.
Among the challenges:
- California’s longstanding policy of separating undergraduate work from post-graduate teacher preparation programs;
- The wide variation in the length and quality of the student teaching experience;
- The need for more of a focus on early childhood and the middle school years in most teacher preparation programs, especially for those considering teaching those grades;
- The absence of a state requirement that teachers engage in professional learning while working towards their permanent credential;
- Upgrading the preparation requirements for special education teachers, while making more intensive efforts to recruit them;
- The elimination of targeted state funding for mentoring programs for new teachers;
- The steady decline in the number of people wishing to teach, as indicated by the continuing decline in the number of students enrolled in teacher preparation programs.
As the report noted:
Effective preparation of teachers is an essential dimension of the education enterprise, especially with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, along with the Next Generation Science Standards.
Yet a range of other reforms, such as linking teacher evaluations to student test scores, lengthening the time it takes for teachers to get tenure, and making it easier to fire ineffective teachers, have garnered far more attention in recent years.
The report, which was underwritten by the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, stressed that reforms to teacher preparation and credentialing not be carried out in isolation. “Instead, they need to be fully integrated and synchronized with the other major reforms being rolled out in California,” the report urged.