In a time of widespread calls for education “reform” that are little more than thinly veiled attempts at privatizing schools, the AFT has a new proposal that would actually help solve some of the problems American education faces. The AFT Teacher Preparation Task Force released a report, Raising the Bar—Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession, that recommends the equivalent of a “bar” exam for teachers, similar to the tests that lawyers have to pass before they can legally practice.
AFT President Randi Weingarten says that lack of preparation is a major problem for many new teachers.
It’s time to do away with a common rite of passage into the teaching profession—whereby newly minted teachers are tossed the keys to their classrooms, expected to figure things out and left to see if they and their students sink or swim. This is unfair to both students and their teachers, who care so much but who want and need to feel competent and confident to teach from their first day on the job.
The report says that many teachers feel unprepared before they teach their first classes and get little preparation for dealing with the real world of the classroom, even if they have mastered their subject area. The report lists several solutions:
- All stakeholders—teacher education institutions, K-12 schools, teacher accrediting agencies, state education boards, the federal government, education associations and unions—must collaborate to ensure that teacher preparation standards, programs and assessments are aligned around a well-grounded vision of effective teaching.
- Teaching, like the medical, legal and other professions, must have a universal, rigorous entry assessment that is multidimensional. Its components should include subject and pedagogical knowledge and demonstration of teaching performance—in other words, the ingredients to be a caring, competent and confident new teacher. This assessment would be required of all future teachers, whether they enter the profession through the traditional or an alternative route.
- Primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the standards of the profession and for ensuring quality and coherence of teacher preparation programs must reside with K-12 teachers and teacher educators.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is going to bring together various stakeholders to begin designing the new standards.