An Overhaul of Teacher Education Programs

Teach for America (TFA) is a popular teacher education program. Media perception is a big part of that. The organization is high profile and its behind-the-scenes partnerships with school districts and community organizations help it to stay afloat. School districts with tight budgets can hire TFA members at the lowest pay rate and the community at large views the school districts as taking proactive steps to save resources. Now a panel of education experts has called for an overhaul of U.S. teacher-preparation programs like TFA. The experts call for more emphasis on in-classroom training and tougher admission standards for prospective teachers.

The experts on the panel are urging teacher education programs, including education schools at colleges and universities, to operate more like medical schools where the focus is on clinical experience. The idea is that future teachers need to spend more time learning to teach before they’re allowed to take over their own classrooms. Programs like Teach for America do little to prepare their teachers for “real life” – dealing with students, communicating with parents, …

The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education convened the expert panel. James Cibulka, president of the Council said: "We need large, bold, systemic changes. As a nation, we are expecting all of our students to perform at high levels, so it follows that we need to expect more of our teachers as they enter the classroom."

The panel didn’t offer specific suggestions on admissions standards or classroom practices, but did note that the nation’s teacher training programs are a mess of varying techniques and styles. Some sort of consensus on the quality of teaching needs to be implemented to see significant change in the quality of education in America.

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley