As Common Core State Standards become a dominant force in education, colleges and universities across the country will have to consider how they will revise teacher preparation curriculum to reflect the standards. That’s a topic recently analyzed by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) in its information brief regarding the alignment of teacher preparation and the new standards, a topic that is a policy priority for the organization.
Getting Higher Ed on Board
The ASCD’s brief highlights a recent survey by the Center on Education Policy that indicated “of the 40 responding states, 35 reported that their post-secondary institutions are involved in preparing students in teacher preparation programs to teach the Common Core standards. Of those responding states, only 24 are planning to revise teacher preparation curriculum to reflect the new standards.”
Some argue that although most, if not all, institutions that prepare this nation’s teachers recognize a need for programmatic changes in teacher preparation, it’s likely to take at least five years for those changes to be fully planned, tested, and tweaked. Others question whether the colleges and universities that prepare educators should bear the burden alone and whether the content taught in liberal arts will actually have a greater impact on alignment with the new standards.
The State’s Role
New Jersey was an early supporter of Common Core State Standards and among the first to adopt them. Now, education leaders across the state are leading the way in creating partnerships that bring the K-12 and higher education communities together.
New Jersey educational leaders created a series of symposia to provide professional learning, explore policy issues that influence teacher education and preparation, and create meaningful dialogue among higher education, K–12 leadership, and professional associations.
Even before that level of collaboration can take place, states might need to examine the approach they use for aligning teacher preparation curricula to the new standards, the strength of their accreditation process, and the incentives available for attracting high-caliber candidates.
Investment in quality assessments will be key to determining the effectiveness of the new standards. Common Core-aligned student assessments will aim to measure student performance on the new standards, but it can take years or even decades to develop a reliable test. In the meantime, these scores factor into a teacher’s performance rating.
ASCD has voiced concerns over the reliance on test scores and has called for teacher evaluations to be based on multiple measures, including observations, peer reviews, and evidence of student learning.
ASCD also gave high marks to an initial bill that would reauthorize the Higher Education Act to provide another avenue for accountability and quality of teacher preparation. While the bill’s emphasis on collaboration between school districts and educator preparation programs was particularly appealing to ASCD, the organization cautions congressional leaders against using student growth measures as a way of determining a program’s effectiveness.
Most everyone, from policymakers to parents and educators, seemingly agree changes must be made, including stronger admission requirements for teacher preparation programs, quality of coursework and clinical practice, teacher certification, induction into the profession, and ongoing training. For public school students to fully reap the benefits of the new standards, ASCD’s information brief concludes that proper training of new teachers is the logical starting point.