I am currently in San Antonio, attending the Phi Delta Kappa International Summit.  I have been involved in various discussion groups and listened to a panel of distinguished education leaders.  A topic that has been reoccurring is changing how we teach teachers.  This is of special interest to me, evident in my writings and in creation of this website – all in an effort to support aspiring teachers.

Many of the higher education professors explained that the teacher preparation programs are moving in the right direction, touting that many teacher preparation programs have students engaged in year-long clinical studies (student teaching) before entering the classroom.  Others spoke of the improvement of mentorship from the school district of beginning teachers.  These are all great steps in the right direction.  Yet, there is a disconnect in the assumption that universities always prepare qualified teachers ready for the classroom and, second, that once teachers are in the classroom, school districts will have a comprehensive mentoring program in place.  Many times one or both of the these assumptions prove false.

I reflected back to my business background and how it might apply to education.  When I hired a new employee, they were first introduced to the business and its culture.  After this, the new employee were trained for their position.  As part of this training, new employees learned in a classroom-type setting and would work with more experienced employees, creating a type of mentorship and hands-on learning.  Then, new hires had to pass a test, which then led to “graduation.”

So far does this seem very similar to the teacher preparation programs you and I went through?  First came the teacher training classes and then the student teaching component.  Lastly, we graduated and we’re hired as first year teachers (hopefully with some type of mentor program to give support).

However, there is a huge difference.  In the business setting, I would NEVER allow a new employee begin working without continual monitoring, goal setting, and targeted professional development.  The training department of the company was responsible for the outcome / performance of their trainee three months after they graduated their training program.

I propose we do the same with higher education.  Upon completion of the teacher preparation coursework and student teaching, teachers are given a “provisional” degree and certification.  The teacher training program then acts as a bridge to the local schools for which the teachers teach.  For their first year, teachers are given continual feedback, support, goals, and targeted professional development from a collaborative partnership between the higher education program and school district.

The school district would provide mentor teachers at the same school, allowing for a long-lasting, supportive relationship to be established.  Higher education program would provide additional monitoring and feedback, but also provide (free) professional development workshops / ed. courses to meet the needs of the beginning teacher.  Upon completion of this first year, then teachers receive their final degree and certification.  Let’s not stop there.  Imagine after the first year, beginning teachers continued to receive feedback and support by taking a university-sponsored support program for completing NBPTS.

A teacher preparation model like this would provide any pre-service teacher a smooth transition from their training to the classroom, preparing them better to meet student needs. This high level partnership would lead to increased student achievement, reduce teacher turnover, and have a financial payoff (ROI) for school districts by not having to find and replace teachers that left the profession.