How did you prep to teach?

The National Council on Teacher Quality is reviewing the quality of different teacher-prep programs. Teachers can go here to complete a survey on your experience with teacher prep.

Life’s a carnival

Is it really that time of year again? asks Carol at Bellringers. Well, it’s time for the end-of-summer Education Buzz carnival.

The National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report are reviewing teacher preparation programs around the country and want to hear from teachers (even veteran teachers) about what they think about the training they received. Go here to take it and get a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

Let’s Do Math also has a contest, but you have to solve a Fibonacci puzzle to win, Carol warns.

Teaching My Baby to Read offers practical, affordable advice for parents with a child who’s struggling in school.

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Janice Campell’s Taking Time for Things That Matter.

Better teachers

The Race to the Top competition pushed states to change education policies in 2010, concludes the National Council on Teacher Quality in its State Teacher Policy Yearbook. Twenty-one states now require annual evaluations of all teachers, up from 15 in 2009. Fourteen states now hold teacher preparation programs accountable for their graduates’ students performance, up from only one the year before.

However, “most states’ evaluation, tenure and dismissal policies remain disconnected from classroom effectiveness,” NCTQ concludes. In addition, “rather than working to expand the teacher pipeline, many states create obstacles in their alternate routes to certification.”

“Simply put, the nation’s thousands of teacher preparation programs are good at churning out teachers but far less successful at ensuring that those teachers meet the needs of public schools and students,” say the authors.  

The brief proposes creating a federal framework for evaluating teacher preparation programs, using “outcomes-based indicators of quality,” and establishing competitive grants to encourage states and institutions to change “how, and how rigorously, they monitor, evaluate, and improve their teacher preparation programs.”  Streamlining financial aid should include  “eliminating TEACH Grants, an ineffective pre-service grant program, and using those resources to expand debt forgiveness benefits for high-quality classroom teachers.”

Education Week has several commentaries on the future of teaching.

Should teacher quality be so important?

Let’s make teacher quality less important, writes Dan Willingham on The Answer Sheet. “Teacher quality is the most important in-school factor that influences kids’ schooling,” he writes.”That’s important because it’s pretty hard to change characteristics of the child, the family or the neighborhood, whereas educators and politicians can more readily change characteristics of schools.”

We could try to hire better and better teachers to replace those who are unsatisfactory. That’s expensive.

Willingham prefers to make teaching more consistent so the “characteristics of individual teachers wouldn’t matter so much.”

For example, we might try to make teaching more consistent by improving teacher preparation. Right now, teacher preparation just doesn’t matter very much. Most teachers say that it didn’t help them, and there is scant evidence that the type of training teachers receive has much impact on their teaching.

Naturally, if teacher training has little impact, and teachers are left to their own devices, characteristics of the teacher will end up mattering a lot to teacher quality.

Another way to make teacher quality more consistent is to use a curriculum, so that lesson content is more consistent across teachers.

Some would call this “teacherproofing” the classroom, which can help inexperienced and subpar teachers, but restrict good teachers. Is it possible to make teacher quality a less significant factor without dumbing down the most talented teachers?