A teacher pauses to help students--do teacher prep programs need an overhaul?

Do teacher prep programs need an overhaul?

Despite discouragingly high candidate failure rates on licensing tests, teacher prep programs could diversify and improve with a few intentional improvements

“Of all the different strategies to try and attract more individuals of color to the teaching profession, here we surface thousands of candidates a year who want to teach, who would teach, but whose institutions are not providing what they need to be successful. Few challenges faced by the teaching profession can be solved as easily as this one–just guide them to the right coursework,” says Kate Walsh, NCTQ’s president.

Candidates of color are hit hardest. Already more likely to be disadvantaged by an inequitable system of K-12 education, only 38 percent of black teacher candidates and 57 percent of Hispanic teacher candidates pass the most widely used licensing test even after multiple attempts, compared to 75 percent of white candidates, the report notes. If the pass rate for black and Hispanic teacher candidates were comparable to white candidates, the diversity of the new teaching pool would increase by half.

Low pass rates on the elementary content licensing exam have in many states sparked a backlash against the tests themselves, with calls to discard licensing tests or lower the passing scores to make it easier to diversify the profession. But these responses omit the central problem that these tests diagnose: aspiring teachers are not prepared by either their K-12 education or their teacher preparation programs in the content they will have to teach.

The report offers recommendations for institutions and state regulators.

Higher education leaders and teacher preparation programs can:

  • Provide better parameters for selecting from courses that count toward general education requirements for undergraduate students who indicate an interest in teaching.
  • Use the teacher preparation program admissions process as an opportunity to diagnose weaknesses in content knowledge, then tailor teacher candidates’ course of study to fill in gaps.
  • Set undergraduate and graduate program content course requirements to align with what elementary teachers need to know.

State policymakers can:

  • Revisit current licensing tests to ensure they capture the content knowledge teachers need to fully prepare students to meet college-and-career readiness standards.
  • Understand that the response to low pass rates is not to abandon tests or make them easier to pass, but to hold teacher prep programs accountable for preparing candidates in the content aligned to elementary standards.
  • Publish first-time and highest-score licensing test pass rates for all candidates enrolled in a teacher prep program to give prospective teacher candidates the information they deserve to choose a program where they are more likely to be successful.

Laura Ascione

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.