As U.S. states roll out the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act under an administration hostile to public education, these states must support the development of excellent, nurturing teachers who provide a rich learning experience.
Happily, as New York City public school students return to class, New York state’s committee to implement this federal education law has pledged collaboration with higher education to improve aspiring teachers’ student teaching and field experiences.
The committee has consulted with Linda Darling-Hammond, a respected educator who asserts that “instructional decisions cannot be formulated on high” because “effective teaching is not routine, students are not passive, and questions of practice are not simple, predictable or standardized.”
We offer three recommendations to ensure teacher excellence as New York implements ESSA.
Afford aspiring teachers substantial time in the field to gain deep and detailed classroom knowledge. We must also improve the quality of that experience and guide student teachers to progressively develop instructional skill and deepen their practice.
Ensure that our teaching force mirrors students’ diversity. Teacher education programs must recruit, support and prepare aspiring teachers who are racially, culturally, linguistically and socioeconomically diverse. Beyond merely “looking like” their students, teachers must possess the knowledge and understanding that comes with having shared students’ lived experiences.
Our own Teaching Residents at Teachers College (TR@TC) program models fieldwork-intensive inclusive practices. The program is an 18-month teaching residency that recruits and prepares diverse, highly qualified teachers of English as a second language, students with disabilities, science-biology and general science. Residents receive significant financial support, completing fieldwork with a consortium of New York City public schools. Viewing all children as capable, they learn to develop curricula that ensure multiple pathways to understanding for each and every learner.
Remove certification requirements that discourage both teacher diversity and excellence. While some certification requirements do assist in preparing future teachers, the $600 cumulative costs of required exams for all teacher candidates in New York State-approved teacher prep programs are often prohibitive. No research evidence indicates that these tests, nor the recently imposed GRE requirement for admission to master’s-level preparation programs, strongly predict teaching effectiveness or quality. Certification is an essential guarantor of teacher quality – but its testing component is not, and, further, creates barriers for both low-income candidates and potential teachers of color.
The Every Student Succeeds Act inspires hope. Yet for all the skill and dedication of New York’s teachers, our schools fall short for too many children – particularly those living in poverty, those of color and those whose first language is not English.
No formula exists for inventing classrooms in which every child is seen as worthwhile and truly can succeed.
Until we ensure that we’re recruiting the best teachers and enabling them to be experimenters and innovators, “Every Student Succeeds” will remain a success in name only.
This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter.
Lin Goodwin is vice dean and Evenden Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Kelly Parkes is associate professor of music & music education, at Teachers College, Columbia University, and chairman of the college’s Teacher Education Policy Committee.