A Teaching Career that Attracts, Trains, Supports, and Rewards Excellence
At present, too many teachers enter the classroom unprepared. Some fail to become effective but still remain in the profession, while other effective teachers leave because they feel unsupported and underpaid.iv Moreover, many of our nation's highest performing college students never consider entering this rewarding and important field.
A new vision of the teaching profession revises each step of the current career trajectory: raising the bar for entry, preparing teachers well during pre-service programs with high standards for exiting successfully, and supporting and rewarding effective teachers at each stage of their career so that they continue to grow, be recognized for professional accomplishment, and ultimately stay in education. Leaders in this profession continually assess teachers' effectiveness and accomplishments, simultaneously empowering school leadership to personalize professional development, to deliberately reward contributions to the larger community, to provide opportunities for advancement, and to dismiss teachers who are ineffective despite ample support.
Entering the Profession. Currently too many teacher preparation programs fail to attract and select highly qualified candidates with the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to take on the challenge and complexity of teaching today's students. Moreover, once in a program, many candidates don't receive the practical preparation they need to manage classrooms and teach students with a range of needs and abilities. In addition, individuals who may wish to become teachers later in their careers often find themselves excluded from the profession because they haven't pursued traditional pathways into the field, even though they may have the aptitude and knowledge to do an exceptional job. Finally, certification for all new teachers, whether they enter teaching through traditional paths or not, sets a low bar that is often disconnected from classroom performance.
In a 21st century profession, teacher preparation programs would set a high bar for both entering and exiting their programs successfully. To enter programs, aspiring teachers would come from the top tier of students in the country, demonstrate subject-area expertise (or be in the process of becoming experts in their subject area), and display dispositions associated with successful teaching, such as perseverance and effective communication skills with teachers, students, principals, and community members . The student teaching experience itself would be taken seriously, with student teachers supervised by highly effective classroom teachers who have been trained by the college or university. Likewise, supervisors from the student teacher's preparation program will take the feedback of the classroom teacher seriously when deciding whether or not to grant initial certification. To successfully complete a preparation program, pre-service teachers would demonstrate strong subject-area knowledge, proficiency improving student learning through research-based practices, solid understanding of pedagogy, and the ability to work effectively with peers towards common goals. Successful completion of student teaching would indicate that the student teacher had accomplished something significant, meeting an important bar for entry into the profession, preferably earning the student teacher a job in the school or district where the student teaching took place.
In our vision, traditional teacher preparation programs would be one path to the classroom among several. Alternative pathways might include obtaining an advanced degree or working extensively in another field, then gaining certification and entering the classroom as the teacher of record upon demonstration of satisfactory performance. All teacher preparation programs would track and publish data on how successful their graduates are as teachers (through ratings of principals and other measures, including student learning) and how long their graduates stay in the profession. These data could be used by aspiring teachers to decide among pre-service programs and by school districts to make informed hiring decisions. There would also be pathways for career changers who have extensive content knowledge and experience in another field, but who need an entryway into the classroom that matches their professional history.
Though teachers might enter the profession through different avenues, all preparation pathways would require demonstrated effectiveness in the classroom. For example, candidates following a traditional college or university trajectory might participate for 1-2 years as Resident teachers under the aegis of a Master teacher. Other career changers with significant subject-area expertise could demonstrate proficiency in other ways and become Novice teachers. Teachers continue to move along the career trajectory, based on demonstrated performance, and continue receiving support as needed.
iv. South Korea example; McKinsey Top 1/3