Blue Ribbon Panel Urges Overhaul of Teacher Education Programs

A national panel of education experts gathered at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to call for teacher preparation to be “turned upside down” by a roster of innovative changes to teacher education programs.

The sweeping recommendations are part of a new report by a Blue Ribbon Panel convened by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) to improve student learning.

“We need a system of high-performing preparation programs,” NCATE President James Cibulka said, “not the cottage industry of path-breaking initiatives.”

NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle

National Education Association Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle is a member of the Blue Ribbon panel and enthusiastically endorsed its recommendations today. Other key stakeholders on the panel include policymakers, superintendents and members of academia, all united in their commitment to end the status quo.

In order to transform teacher education, the report urges a shift away from the segmented approach of theory, pedagogy and subject-matter preparation and places clinical practice front and center. Coursework is crucial, but because it has not been properly integrated with practice, its effectiveness has been, and will continue to be, limited. This means giving teacher candidates opportunities to study and develop their practice and benefitting from the expertise of mentors.

“The path to the classroom must include practical clinical opportunities, strengthened mentoring and induction programs and continuous professional development and education opportunities,” said Pringle. “We would never leave a first year medical or law student to their own devices and expect them to operate on a patient or try an important case.  Yet we expect new teachers to be able to perform at the highest standards on the first day. We need to apply the same rigorous training, support and joint accountability standards to the profession of teaching.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addresses the NCATE Blue Ribbon panel on Tuesday.

Speaking to the panel today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the recommendations and announced that federal funding for teacher preparation programs will be doubled in 2011.

“Teaching has never been more difficult,” said Duncan. “All of us have a responsibility to help recruit and train and support our teachers. This report takes our students, our schools and our national in a direction where we need to be.”

The report is already triggering action across the nation. Seven states – California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, and Oregon have already agreed to implement the panel’s recommendations. As part of the NCATE Alliance for Clinical Teacher Preparation, these states will be working national experts to pilot innovative approaches to build models for other states to potentially follow.

Without the sustained commitment and participation of the stakeholders represented on the panel, NCATE President Cibulka cautioned, success will be short-lived.

“There are more students with greater learning needs than ever before. This and other unmet needs press all of us to make bold, simultaneous systemic changes.”

““NEA is committed to continuing our partnerships,” Pringle added, “working across the board with districts, schools of education and policymakers to expand practical clinical opportunities, strengthen licensure requirements, encourage mentoring and induction programs and emphasize staff development and evaluation. We applaud NCATE and the panel for stepping forward with the call for a national strategy and we stand ready to do all that we can to see it come to fruition.”