By the LEV Policy Team
Our conversation around redefining basic education continues with an examination of an often overlooked part of the education system, educator preparation.
Research consistently shows that teachers have the strongest school-based impact on student performance. The impacts of a highly effective teacher or low-performing teacher can affect students for years to come and influence a student’s likelihood of college attendance and persistence. Our educational system must equip teachers with the skill sets required to meet the needs of a student body that is more diverse each year.
Our understanding of how to better support, engage, and teach students grows each year, yet many preparation programs have not used this growing body of research to change how they prepare teachers. This knowledge can be a valuable asset as we prepare future educators to meet the challenges they will face in the classroom. Unfortunately, most teachers feel that their teacher preparation program left them unprepared for the challenges of teaching.
Improving preparation programs is an important starting point to ensure every student has access to effective teachers. One way to improve these programs is to include longer, more intentional student teaching experiences. Some programs only require one-semester of student teaching which doesn’t always provide aspiring teachers with enough time to experience the range of challenges of running their own classrooms.
In contrast some teacher preparation programs, like Heritage University, have developed longer, more intentional approaches to student teacher placements. Aspiring teachers will work in a classroom for more than a year as they build the knowledge and understanding that they will need to succeed when they become a teacher. It is new approaches to teacher preparation like this that will help to provide the necessary foundation for aspiring teachers.
Another means to ensure new teachers develop the appropriate skills to be successful in increasingly diverse classrooms is providing a curriculum in preparation programs that is reflective of the skills and understanding needed to positively impact student learning, like trauma informed instruction and culturally responsive instruction. This type of training should also be provided to current and veteran teachers.
- “In this approach, the adults in the school building understand the prevalence and impact of adverse childhood experiences, the role trauma plays in people’s lives, and the complex and varied paths for healing and recovery.”
- “A trauma-informed approach asks: ‘What happened to you?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong with you?’ It is designed to avoid re-traumatizing already traumatized people, with a focus on ‘safety first’ (including emotional safety), and a commitment to do no harm.”
- Culturally responsive instruction is “recognizing the differences among students and families from different cultural groups, responding to those differences positively, and being able to interact effectively in a range of cultural environments.”
If teachers are the most significant school-based factor on student achievement, appropriately preparing teachers is a common sense route to improving student outcomes. What can Washington state do to better prepare and support teachers?
Read Part 1 of our McCleary blog series, Rethinking Our Education System