Section V—Entering the Profession

Section V—Entering the Profession

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


As a second year teacher, I feel as if I was more prepared than most. I was a disaster at the beginning of the year compared to the end and I am sure that trend will continue as the years go by, opportunities for student experience and exploration foregone in sacrifice to my own experiential learning as a teacher. In a way I feel that this is okay, but at the expense of the students - such is what happens with fast teacher certification programs, where students in schools of under-served populations get new 1st or 2nd year teachers habitually. My thought is a residency. Perhaps a first year teacher teaches only one period for their first year and adds a period each successive year, allowing time for curriculum development as well as observation and pedagogical development. This could succeed the student teaching experience, as the residency would allow the teacher their own independent classroom, but would have the supports of time, colleagues and other resources that time usually doesn't allow in the first year.

The Dept. of Education needs to take a hard look at its own rules and regulations, particularly under what's left of NCLB, regarding the designation of "highly qualified teachers." Any person who can pass a qualifying teacher exam (usually Praxis or similar tests) can earn HQ status,at least in our state. Yet, even ETS itself reports[ ] that the tests have consistently screened out the majority of African American and Latino candidates, and this holds true across socio-economic backgrounds and regardless of type or quality of preparation program. Meanwhile, there is no evidence to show that those who score well on these tests are in fact the best or better teachers.

Just as with students, these standardized tests should not be the sole or most weighted tool by which we select and qualify teachers. The Administration has stated its desire to increase the numbers of Black teachers, particularly males, in our schools. That issue should be addressed here.

I agree that we need to examine the selection process for prospective educators and find a way to attract more highly qualified applicants. I recently read that sadly the majority of students entering our nation's education programs at the university level scored in the bottom one third of their graduating classes. Why is that? What is it that makes these students attracted to the teaching profession? Do they think it is an "easy" program of study? If so, we are in trouble. It is time to raise the bar and get professionals working in our schools who can teach not only content material, but also teach students how to learn, think and problem solve. These individuals need to be highly qualified, competent, well-trained and lifelong learners. Teaching is arduous and requires substantial amounts of time and effort. It is not for the meek. Teachers have the incredible task of educating our young and preparing for the future. Students are looking toward them to gain the skills necessary to succeed and excel. Who doesn't want that?
I am nearly finishing an alternative teaching program. While there have been pros and cons to the program, I do think programs such as this should continue to be offered. Individuals who have degrees in other areas and experience in multiple careers have a lot to offer students and learning communities. They should not be judged or punished because they did not take a "traditional" path to being an educator. However, I agree that all persons going into the education field should feel competent with their knowledge base and understanding of the content they will be teaching. I don't think teaching programs are focusing on this enough. Personally, I don't like feeling like I am unprepared. In addition, I believe working with a Master teaching the first year is an exceptional idea. The initial educator needs to have someone to turn to for advice or feedback. This could make their first year much more manageable and worthwhile. Why not benefit from the experience and expertise of others? Many other countries are already doing this.
Therefore, I do believe we need to raise our standards of those entering the teaching profession and we need to support initial educators in as many purposeful ways as we can. Having a grasp on the content knowledge is certainly important as well. We need to keep in mind what is best for the children.

I am currently in an alternative teacher licensure program that has given me the opportunity to pursue a new career path. The program has the right intentions behind it, but I feel fails to offer the consistent needed support in the classroom that an initial/novice teacher needs. We are graduate students pursuing a Master’s Degree in Education, and at the same time immersed into an ELL classroom of students with varying or little curriculums to follow. I like the idea of breaking the mold of a specific traditional path that most colleges offer. I think that craft knowledge can be built more quickly in these types of programs but that more structured in classroom support is needed to improve the consistency and effectiveness of these programs. Pairing initial / novice teachers with teachers that have proven track records that qualify them as Master Teachers/ mentors with the ability to work one on one would be quite effective in in my opinion. In order to attract and retain people with a wealth of worldly experiences who are willing to make the commitment to the career path of Education, the bar must be raised on the understanding and perspective of the general public.

Teacher preparation programs are definitely on the right track for preparing new teachers. However, I think there is a variety of programs that prepare teachers differently and some are more effective than others. If there could be a national teacher preparation program in place then I think programs as a whole would be improved. The program I recently completed had a very rigorous student teaching program and my university supervisor and mentor teacher had a close relationship with me and I think this proved beneficial. I think when selecting mentor teachers, it is important that they are carefully selected and understand the evaluation process and the impact they will have on their student teacher's career. Finally, I think that we should not single out those who have chosen this profession from a different path. I suggest that we analyze each teacher candidate and see what type of background they have with children and teaching their content. It could be helpful to have teachers start on different paths based on their education.

I agree that the standards for becoming a teacher should be set much higher at a national level to ensure that all teachers entering the field are completely prepared for taking on the challenge of being an educator in today's schools. I believe that most traditional accreditation programs through 4-year Universities have already made progress in setting higher standards and that for the most part; teachers that come from these programs have proven that they are ready to be a successful educator. Where the greatest problem lies is with those that come into the teaching profession from non-traditional routes. There are far too many different ways in which someone can become a teacher without having to prove their abilities to teach in a classroom setting before being placed in a classroom of their own. I believe if many of these outside routes into the teaching profession were eliminated, and all teachers had to reach certain benchmarks in order to gain certification, the percentage of qualified and well-prepared teachers would increase immensely.

I think the idea of a resident teacher program is lovely; it is wonderful that we are trying to recruit people in such a high need area. However, as an alum of a teacher program, I am fully aware of the flaws. These poor professionals are not aware of what is in store before they begin teaching and they are not properly prepared for the classroom. Unfortunately, this often leads to teachers who abandon their classrooms midyear. Some may say "Isn't it better that we weed these people out any way?" I'd reply "At whose expense?" The worst thing you can do to a class of underpriviledged students is abandon them in the middle of the school year. This is tragic academically as well as emotionally.

It is imperative that resident teacher programs start to think less about quantity of teachers and more about quality.

I recommend that they consider the following:
STOP DOING SUMMER INSTITUTES. One cannot learn to teach in 45 days. Nope. Not happening. Not ever. Summer school is not equivalent to the real thing. Why not do the institutes during the school year so that people can have an actual opportunity to see what it is like to teach for a full school day and not just for an hour a week at summer school? Wouldn't we have more time to "weed out" then? Wouldn't we produce teachers who are more prepared and more confident on the first day of school? Wouldn't we be more likely to retain skilled professionals?

P.S. I'm still teaching, and I don't think it is because of my teaching program. I attribute my success to my natural talents and to the support I received at my school from veteran teachers.

The issues you address are critical to the success of the non-traditional incoming classroom teacher. After researching the programs for teacher preparation, I personally chose to return to college for a second bachelor's degree. The programs which recruit and place professionals into the classroom as rapidly as possible are attractive to one seeking a career change, especially for financial security. The career professional is accustomed to an environment where job change is seamless and compensation down-time is a rarity.

Qualified, expert, and competent teachers do not simply emerge from the corporate and private sector of the work force because of maturity and tenure. Like all skilled professions, if not more so, to become a competent teacher requires content knowledge, classroom management skills unlike any other business environment, practice working with adolescents, and the personality for public service.

After a 16 year career in the corporate sector, I took the financial risk of returning to school full time in order to establish the skills and knowledge necessary for classroom teaching. Over the past few semesters, I have questioned the decision for the financial burden of the traditional route. Teachers who seek license through quick study plans and in the class training have valid concerns just like mine, and are driven to make sacrifices in order to pursue the teaching profession.

Now, in my fourth and final semester, I am confident that I will enter the public school classroom better qualified, more able and effective, and with the confidence and efficacy necessary to provide a safe learning environment and productive classroom experience. I am also confident that the financial burden is much less painful than the possible results of entering a public school and failing to educate the students. To succeed in education without a traditional certification is certainly possible, but likely an exception, and a risky one at that.

As a product of an alternative licensure program that does use a "Summer Institute" as a sort of boot-camp to ready new teachers for the upcoming school year, I can definitely agree that there are flaws in this approach. However, my experience in speaking with other teachers about being thrown in to my first year of teaching with no experience other than my "Summer Institute" training has always warranted interesting conversations. Most people I have spoken to who entered education through a more traditional route were envious of my experience being "thrown in". They said that much of what they learned in their undergraduate education classes did little to prepare them for what truly laid ahead in their first year of teaching, and they weren't truly able to apply and/or make sense of what they were being taught until they were in a classroom setting that was their own.

While I in no way think that Summer Institute training prepares new teachers for what lies ahead, I do not think going through an undergraduate training program and being certified without ever having had experience in a classroom is ample preparation either- regardless of whether the person is a "top" student or not. I agree that the Resident Teacher program is a wonderful recommendation for alleviating the stress that usually comes along with the first-year teaching experience- an experience that is typically an immense challenge for ALL teachers, regardless of the training/education they had prior to entering the profession.

The real consideration to make when analyzing the way people are entering the teaching profession is the effect it has on the students. The students deserve to have teachers who are knowledgeable and "with it" in regards to managing a classroom and teaching effectively. I think the Resident Teacher program would benefit the students in that it would ensure new teachers received an adequate amount of training and experience prior to being handed the reigns of their own classroom.

As a teacher completing her last semester in an alternative certification program I completely agree with your thoughts. A summer crash course is not an effective means of preparing the aspiring teacher for the classroom. It would have been of greater benefit to have had the opportunity to begin this process during the school year. Doing so would have allowed time for observation, questioning, and discussion about what it takes to be an effective educator. This would also give the opportunity to make connections and guide discussions on the topics and information presented during education courses.
Implementing a residency model or a program that would allow the aspiring teacher the opportunity experience the profession before being placed into the profession may be of greater benefit. This model would allow for application, reflection, constructive criticism, and growth.
The ill prepared teacher does a disservice to the students, alternative route or not.

While this vision is lofty, and I agree that high standards for teacher education are crucial, most of the characteristics called for in this program are already in place in accredited teacher education programs. NCATE and other state accrediting bodies that approve programs to certify teachers require most of these items, with the exception of a full year of mentoring under another teacher. Teacher candidates must have a 2.5 GPA to enter programs (maybe not high enough, but that is a standard in place), must pass content area tests and earn minimum grades in content courses, must demonstrate proficiency in learning theory, planning, teaching diverse students, assessment, classroom management, and working with parents and school personnel. Most teacher education programs require either portfolios of work or something called a Teacher Work Sample, a unit of study in which they demonstrate student learning based on curriculum standards, using pretest and posttests. Most teacher education programs include many hours of field work (in most accredited programs 900+ hours), with at least a full semester of student teaching under qualified cooperating teachers.

As a college professor who teaches methods courses, it pains me to hear teachers say that the courses they took did not help them in the "real world" of teaching. Application of theory to practice under supervision is essential to effective teaching. But, as one person commented, when teachers in the field are evaluated and paid based on their students' test scores, they truly don't want to give up their classrooms to help train preservice teachers. We experience this challenge more as time goes on. Also, even though we have performance measurements of our preservice teachers in the form of portfolios, videos, and student work samples, most principals won't look at them. We heard time and time again that the principals "just don't have time to look at that stuff". Finally, it is difficult to isolate the variable of a full-time teacher's impact on student learning (even with value-added statistical methods), imagine how much more difficult it is to measure the impact of a student teacher in a classroom for a semester and in partnership with the teacher.

On a financial note, a 1-2 year teacher residency would be welcome, but who will pay for it? With state budget cuts, in-service teachers are getting laid off and colleges are struggling for financial aid. This puts states and institutions in need of funds and therefore much more open to the demands of federal programs that come with strings attached. Many of the federal programs are funded by private money (Achieve, Inc.; Bill Gates Foundation, etc.) so that as time goes on, the profession and practice of teaching is moving into the private sector. Who has the power to decide: What knowledge is valued for students? What counts as evidence of teacher effectiveness and quality? What are the aims and purposes of schooling in America and around the globe? Currently, competing visions of education vie for power and resources. Underlying issues of poverty, equality, and global unrest add to the challenges.

While I would agree that teachers need to be trained effectively, the definitions and measurements of many of its components are still left to be determined based on deeper, philosophical visions of education. Those with power will determine how those definitions are operationalized.

I have heard very little about improving teacher education programs. Quite frankly, much of my training was of little or no help to me. I had some very effective professors in college at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree levels. However, for every effective one, there was one who was ineffective. Teachers need to learn pedagogy along with appropriate training in real curriculum applications. Many college professors are more concerned about publishing and pulling money in for their institutions because that is what is demanded of them. Teaching at the college level is at the bottom of the "importance scale". Quite frankly, I think practicing teachers would provide the best training for college students because they have the real day-to-day knowledge about teaching. Perhaps, full-time professors could teach theory while practicing teachers could be employed to teach curriculum and practical applications. I think too many teachers enter the profession without the necessary "nuts and bolts" to teach effectively.

Last night I watched a segment on "60 minutes" about Turkish teachers here in the United States who were producing good results with students. If this is true, what were they doing? Maybe institutions of higher learning should explore other models of teaching to find the best ones and incorporate them into effective teacher training programs?

In addition, we need to pay more attention re: how to work with neglected students from impoverished backgrounds. Perhaps, we need to provide residential facilities that provide the necessary support for them to learn. There are special education students who need appropriate instructional support for a larger part of their day instead of sitting in the regular classrooms where their needs cannot be adequately met. We need to have parent outreach programs so that parents can be educated about how to work with their children.

We live in a very challenging society with so many variables that need to be addressed. The pressure on teachers is enormous. We deal with students who seem to have more needs than ever before. We deal with parents who are angry and take their frustrations out on teachers and take up too much of our time with frivolous lawsuits. We have parents who move from place to place so frequently that as we are just getting handle on their child's learning, they are moving again. In addition to all this, we have to listen to negative press about teachers. We have budgets that are being slashed along with teacher layoffs which produces more work for existing teachers. We spend too much time testing children with standardized tests that absorb much of our instructional time. There needs to be less emphasis on "poor" teachers and more emphasis on ways our institutions, both governmental and educational, can prepare and support teachers to be more effective. We live in a country where education is not valued enough.
It should be one of the most valued and honored institutions we have. Our societal machinery needs an overhaul.

I agree that there always seems to be a disconnect between what you really see in teaching and in the professors theories about what should be happening. Sometimes I really wonder if it is that colleges are unfamiliar with the theory or if the practicing teachers are not familiar with the theories? Bottom line there is a disconnect that needs to be addressed.

This is definitely a must! Colleges need to get with it and improve their teacher preparation programs. I went back to school to get my certification 20 years ago, and there wasn't one class in my college teacher preparation program that I can remember even a little bit helping prepare me for the reality of the classroom. My teacher "education" unfortunately was on-the-job training and a baptism by fire. I figured it out because teaching was what I really wanted to do and I cared how I did it. But it sure would have been a lot easier if college classes had made that reality a little easier.

I have another question about this though. If the current fad of merit pay actually gains a firm foothold in education, then how many experienced, effective, mentor teachers are going to want to give up their classrooms to an untrained, inexperienced teacher? If you're going to start basing my effectivess as a teacher on my student growth and test scores, I certainly won't want any novice teacher taking my classroom for even one hour.

The Good Force be with you!

Entering the Teaching Profession that Attracts, Trains, Supports and Rewards Excellence is the best answer for the questions raised by professionals in this field.

Live forever and prosper!

A key area is also matching higher education programs with the current reality in the public school systems. As a mature (50yrold) who returned to school 30years after my first degree, not in education, I found that many of my courses focused largely on the ideals of teaching instead of the reality of what I met in my first job. The college community and the public education system need to collaborate with classroom teachers at every level when designing the teacher training and curriculum.

Who is a highly qualified inductee into a teacher training program? Is it someone who graduates from Harvard with a 4.3 grade point average, yet can't relate to kids or thinks the work a bridge until medical school? ? The sad reality is that many of even the most highly qualified potential teachers (if based solely on grade point average) fall way short of having the prerequisite skills, knack, passion, reflection, metacognition, common sense and kid sense needed to become effective teachers. The phrase "highly qualified" and "talented" are in my mind becoming loaded buzzwords and constructions for white, middle class, monolingual, suburban. These words, "highly qualified" and "talented" seem to never appear in concert with minority, urban, diverse. Whether or not you share this sentiment, I feel the entire focus on teacher quality and preparedness has missed one major opportunity: the recruitment and mentoring of teachers who are from cultural and linguistic minorities. It seems that minority teacher is an oxymoron, and that perhaps, as the nation continues to get browner and browner, the notion of recruiting minority "talent" gets ironically swept further and further under the colorblind rug.

Latosha Guy
Reading Specialist and National Board Certified English Teacher