Address Gaps in Preparation
Many teachers, even Occidental graduates who completed their credential programs elsewhere, feel that their teacher preparation programs were sadly lacking. In contrast, most graduates of the Occidental Credential Program over the past decades, feel that their preparation was outstanding, and that they entered the classroom prepared to teach from the first day of school. Student teaching honed their skills. It did not have to develop them from the ground up, because students had experienced extensive fieldwork preparation and reflective classroom discussion with strong outside support. A strong teacher preparation program is essential to providing excellent teachers.
The National Council on Teacher Quality published a report in July, 2011, entitled “Student Teaching in the United States”. This report states, “Because teaching is so difficult and novices are not well prepared for its challenges, first-year teachers are notoriously and almost uniformly weak. As the findings from a study below depict (consistently replicated in many studies), the majority of a novice teacher’s students lose ground, making less than a year’s worth of progress in the teacher’s first year in the classroom.” (http://www.nctq.org/edschoolreports/studentteaching/docs/nctq_str_full_report_final.PDF)
Another article, written by Dr. Arthur Levine of Columbia Teacher’s College and published in September, 2006, reinforces that statement, castigating teacher preparation programs for “inadequately preparing their graduates to meet the realities of today’s standards-based, accountability-driven classrooms, in which the primary measure of success is student achievement.”(http://www.edschools.org/pdf/Educating_Teachers_Exec_Summ.pdf)
Linda Darling Hammond addresses this issue in Powerful Teacher Education (p. 80) when she says, “If teachers are viewed primarily as purveyors of information, perhaps they need little more than basic content knowledge and the ability to string together comprehensible lectures to do an adequate job. For this kind of teaching, it is easy to believe that reasonable communication skills and a liberal arts education could be sufficient preparation. But if teachers must ensure successful learning for students who learn in different ways and may encounter a variety of difficulties, then teachers need to be diagnosticians and planners who know a great deal about the learning process and have a repertoire of tools at their disposal. In this view, teaching requires a professional knowledge base that informs decisions about teaching in response to learners.”
John Goodlad, in Teachers for Our Nation’s Schools, (p.25) begins with this premise. “And to ensure 180 days of good teaching no doubt requires different and better education and training than today’s teachers received. To guarantee that teachers and principals possess the knowledge and skills required to renew their schools undoubtedly requires components not present in today’s preparation programs.”
In regards to Teach for America, in Taking Teaching Seriously, Roellke and Rice (p. 171) have this to say: “These highly incentivized programs, which often include tuition remission grants for graduate school, retention bonuses and so forth, present a significant dilemma for talented liberal arts students considering a career in teaching… Specifically, our respondents pointed to the need for additional instruction in multicultural education, special education, and more ample opportunities for pre-service practicum experiences in urban settings.”
Today, we need to address specific gaps often seen by underprepared teachers. A group of administrators (listed as participants at the end of this report) interviewed by ALOED came up with the following list of areas they feel should be addressed.
1) Know how to use a clearly defined model of lesson and unit design
2) Have strong classroom management skills
3) Have a deep understanding and ability to use explicit direct instruction
4) Have a strong understanding of the California Common Core State Standards
5) Know a variety of assessments tools and how to analyze the data.
6) Know how to use both formal and informal assessments to check for student’s understanding and modify instruction
7) Be able to identify and use strategies to differentiate, especially for English language learners. John Dewey in 1929 noted “the better prepared teachers are, the more their practice becomes differentiated in response to the needs of individual students, rather than routinized” (Linda Darling-Hammond, Powerful Teacher Education p. 10)
8) Be able to use several research-based instructional strategies to teach reading, math, and other content areas. Even single subject credential students need a strong understanding of how to teach and improve students’ reading and writing skills.
Here are some of the characteristics the focus group found to describe excellent teachers:
Curriculum and lesson design
Creativity/ Ability to engage students
Good sense of Pacing
Self-reflective and articulate
Confidence and Competence
Strong writing skills
Solid background in subject areas/Deep understanding of content
Strong knowledge of child development
Research based instruction
Use of technology in instruction, communication and assessment
Differentiation (meet the individual needs all students)