Secretary Duncan Affirms Call for Tougher Teacher Prep Programs

Secretary of Education Secretary Arne Duncan yesterday called for universities and colleges to hold teacher preparation programs more accountable for the impact of their graduates on student learning.

“It is time for states, university-based preparation programs, and NCATE itself to do a better job of self-policing quality and poorly performing programs,” he said today in a speech to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education Blue Ribbon Panel at the National Press Club.

Specifically, Secretary Duncan called on those responsible for licensing teachers to make accreditation much more rigorous, “outcome-based and propelled by clinical practice.” To illustrate his point, Duncan cited a survey of more than 700 education school professors released last month by the Fordham Institute, which found that only seven percent of teacher educators currently believe that an NCATE accreditation means a program is top-notch. Instead, nearly 90 percent said that accreditation assured only that a program was in procedural compliance or met a minimum baseline of acceptable quality.

Secretary Duncan made his remarks at the release of NCATE’s Blue Ribbon Panel report on teacher education. The report calls for schools of education to raise their standards for applicants and provide teachers-in-training with relevant classroom experience.

The secretary said that he is “enormously encouraged” by the Blue Ribbon panel’s report calling for an overhaul of the system used to license teachers and urging states to continue linking student outcomes to accreditation of teacher prep programs.

“It challenges this failed status quo, instead of propping it up. It calls for shifting to a clinical-based program for accreditation. It calls for linking student outcomes back to the teacher preparation programs where their teachers trained.” Furthermore, Secretary Duncan said that he is “doubly” encouraged that eight states, including California, New York, and Ohio, have signed letters of intent to implement NCATE’s recommendations.

The secretary also praised all 12 of the Race to the Top Winners, who “put forward a strong plan for linking teacher preparation programs to the student outcomes of their graduates.” As evidence, he lauded Georgia for developing a set of program effectiveness measures for their teacher and leader preparation programs that will consider not only K-12 student growth data, but measure the transition from initial certification to full certification, three-year retention rates, and demonstration of content knowledge. He praised educational leaders in Delaware for linking preparation programs to their graduates’ evaluation ratings under new evaluation systems.

Duncan stressed that as we raise the bar for teachers, we must ask more of our teacher preparation programs, who we entrust with girding new teachers in the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in classrooms today.

Laurie Calvert
Washington Teacher Ambassador Fellow