Teaching teachers: How colleges are doing

How well are teachers’ colleges teaching our teachers? Most first-year teachers were satisfied with their training, concludes Public Agenda’s Lessons Learned survey. Overall 8 in 10 felt they were prepared for their first classroom (42 percent said “very prepared).

However, only 39 percent said their training in dealing with diverse classrooms helped them “a lot” once they were in their own classroom.

New middle and high school teachers said their training put too much stress on theory and not enough on the practical demands of the classroom.

Teachers, especially at the high school level, were more critical of the support they got — or didn’t get — when they started teaching.

Just a quarter of new high school teachers (26 percent) said they get excellent advice on lesson plans and teaching techniques, compared to 39 percent of elementary school teachers who said the same.

There is also a 10-point difference on the advice they said they got about handling unmotivated students: 31 percent of high school teachers say they get excellent advice, compared to 41 percent of grade school teachers.

U.S. News and World Report and the National Council on Teacher Quality plan to rate teachers colleges. The education schools aren’t pleased.

Would-be teachers show their skills

Would-be teachers are teaching on video as part of a new licensing system being tested in 19 states.  Student teachers must must show they can prepare a lesson, tailor it to different levels of students and teach it effectively, writes AP’s Chris Williams.

Most states only require that would-be teachers pass their class work and a written test. Supporters of the new system say the Teacher Performance Assessment program is a significant improvement, while others are a little more cautious in their praise, warning that it’s not guaranteed it will lead to more successful teachers.

The assessments also place responsibility for grading the would-be teachers with teams of outside evaluators who have no stake in the result. Currently, the teachers-in-training are evaluated by their colleges, which want their students to get their teaching licenses.

Minnesota will adopt video assessments in 2012. Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington plan to make the switch in five years.

Stanford University, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Council of Chief State School Officers developed TPA.

California and Arizona are the only states that currently require performance testing to license teachers. Two of California’s three different performance tests use video review. The third California test and the one in Arizona requires evaluators to sit in the classrooms and observe the teachers-in-training.

The consortium plans to track teachers to see if the assessment accurately predicts their students’ performance.

Minnesota’s Board of Teaching plans to use the data to track how well teaching colleges are preparing students.

Tom Dooher, president of the Minnesota’s teachers’ union said the group supported it because of its emphasis on developing real-world teaching skills. “This is what education reform should look like, for practitioners by practitioners,” he said.

Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, warned that passing scores on performance assessments often are set so low that nearly everyone passes.