Yesterday’s rollout of the new NCATE report occasioned a mostly predictable reaction. Skeptics were skeptical, ed schools mostly silent, and Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss focused laser-like on the key accountability language in the entire report – and said that was bad news! Notable exception and smart take from Fordham’s Daniela Fairchild.
Please. Let’s be honest. We spend billions on teacher preparation in this country when you total it all up and the results are, overall, horrendous. The result of an enormous preparation, regulatory, and advocacy structure is that overall teachers going through the full-service programs don’t perform appreciably differently than those coming through non-traditional and more efficient routes. The only folks who systematically under-perform are those coming through routes for emergency credentials with absolutely no training. This is less of an indictment of the idea of teacher training per se than it is a poor reflection on how it’s done today. Still, “the data show we’re better than warm bodies” really isn’t much of a rallying cry. The data are clear on this across multiple geographies and the only people still fighting about it are the advocates. From a qualitiative standpoint I can tell you that as a former state board of education member the process of oversight for teacher preparation is a bad joke that borders on racketeering. And, sadly, only a few states look at actual outcomes, meaning how well the people these programs prepare actually do in the classroom.
So that’s why NCATE’s move yesterday was important, they want to substantially change how it’s done today. They called for ambitious change, tethered their credibility to it, and while the report includes a lot of the buzzwords that drive ed school critics bonkers, it has some important ideas in it. In particular the idea that new teachers need more hands-on training, one-size doesn’t fit all, and that wherever possible outcomes should inform program accountability and approval. That’s a big deal. Whether they can pull it off remains to be seen. This is a change-averse and often evidence-impervious community and, as I alluded to above, the regulatory capture is simply beyond belief. But they deserve credit for pushing the issue.
If I were Rick Hess here’s where I’d insert a half-dozen fawning adjectives to describe NCATE’s president, Jim Cilbulka. I’ll just say he’s chosen a harder path than he had to and we should wish him success. That’s why I agreed to serve on the panel he convened to develop the report. Something has to change, Cibulka gets that and has decided to lean into it.