Proposed Legislation to Elevate the Preparation of Teachers
Back in January, Governor Markell delivered his State of the State and called the legislature to action on strengthening the preparation of teachers in Delaware. Yesterday, legislation was filed which, if passed, will drastically strengthen the way higher education prepares teachers in the state of Delaware.
As a small state with only four teacher preparation programs, Delaware has the potential to be a leader in training tomorrow’s teachers. The problem is we’re not. In its annual State Policy Year Book, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) gave Delaware a D- when it comes to teacher preparation. And in a study created by a partnership between Delaware and the Harvard University Strategic Data Project, it was found that close to two in five new teachers leave teaching in our state within four years; in our high-needs schools, that number is close to three in five.
What’s in the proposed legislation?
Parents, teachers, students, and researchers all agree – teacher quality is the single most important school factor in a child’s academic success. The proposed legislation delivers on a three pronged approach for higher education improvements: raising the bar for the teaching profession; improving teacher training; and tracking data on Delaware’s teacher preparation programs.
When it comes to raising the bar, the proposed legislation includes five key revisions to the state’s existing educator licensure code.
· It will require teacher candidates to have a GPA if at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or a GPA in the top 50th percentile for coursework completed. This can either in high school, or during two years in college (meaning that if a candidate performed poorly in high school, they have a chance to still become a teacher by making improvements during the first two years of college, before they officially enter that college’s teacher prep program).
· It will require candidates to pass a test normed to the general college bound population (likely including the SAT and ACT) and passing a minimum score (which would be determined by the Professional Standards Board and State Board in regulation).
· It will require candidates to pass a content-readiness exam and performance assessment.
· It will allow the requirements mentioned above to be waived for up to 10% of students admitted. This allows teacher preparation programs the ability to admit qualified candidates who may have special needs or other challenges.
· It will require candidates to achieve a passing score on an examination of content knowledge; this applies to all candidates who may teach special education in a core content area.
When it comes to improving teacher training, the proposed legislation provides revisions that assure candidates are exposed to high-quality student teaching experiences; ongoing evaluation of throughout practice teaching; and literacy and math instruction geared to the needs of elementary school teachers.
Tying all of the contents in the proposed legislation together, it contains a requirement that teacher preparation programs annually collect and report data on the performance and effectiveness of its graduates. These data will inform and provide the public with important information on the efficacy of our state’s teacher preparation programs.
Why does it matter?
This should come as no surprise: “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and principals” (PISA, 2009). This proposed legislation not only acknowledges this, it creates a starting point for excellence. It gives Delaware a foundation for becoming a top state in the area of teacher preparation, a model for other states—and perhaps a bump in the NCTQ ratings from D- to A+. It gives us the potential to create the best teachers in the US and keep them in our state.
This legislation is, however, only a starting point. Prospective teachers, practicing classroom teachers, school leaders, and higher education all must work together to strengthen the preparation of tomorrow’s educators. Delaware’s State Teacher of the Year John Sell has remarked about the preparation he encountered before entering the craft of teaching, describing his feelings of unpreparedness as a new teacher. He strongly commended and endorsed the contents of the proposed legislation. It will take this kind of enthusiasm, in tandem with the contents of the proposed legislation that will elevate the preparation of teachers in our state.