This is an article about the national standards movement and recommendations for teacher preparation and professional growth which were originally published by NSCD in its The Developer, November 1996. The Developer article describes another work, What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future, published by the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future.




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Teacher Knowledge, Skills Most Important Influences on Student Learning

by Joan Richardson, NSDC "The Developments" November 1996

School reform cannot succeed unless schools are able to create conditions that enable teachers to teach well, says a new report by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future.

"Standards for students and teachers are the key to reforming American education. Access to competent teachers must become a new student right. Access to high-quality preparation, induction, and professional development must become a new teacher right." The commission's report--What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future --is the result of a two-year study by the Commission staff.

"After a decade of reform, we have finally learned in hindsight what should have been clear from the start: Most schools and teachers cannot produce the kind of learning demanded by the new reforms--not because they do not want to, but because they do not know how, and the systems in which they work do not support them in doing so," says the Commission's report.

"On the whole, the school reform movement has ignored the obvious: What teachers know and can do makes the crucial difference in what children learn" the report says.
The Commission, which is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is dedicated to providing an action agenda for developing policy for American education. Linda Darling-Hammond is executive director of the Commission.

What Matters Most bases its conclusions on the premise that standards for students and teachers are the key to reforming American education. Students should have the right to be taught by competent teachers and teachers should have the right to high-quality preparation, induction, and professional development.

The Commission proposes six "turning points" to be achieved by 2006.

1. All children will be taught by teachers who have the knowledge, skills, and commitments to teach children well.

2. All teacher education programs will meet professional standards, or they will be closed. The Commission recommends that every school that educates teachers be accredited.

3. All teachers will have access to high-quality professional development and regular time for collegial work and planning.

4. Both teachers and principals will be hired and retained based on the ability to meet professional standards of practice.

5. Teachers' salaries will be based on their knowledge and skills.

6. Quality teaching will be the central investment of schools. Most education dollars will be spent on classroom teaching.

What Matters Most recommends that teachers be licensed based on demonstrated performance, including tests of subject matter knowledge, teaching knowledge, and teaching skills. The report recommends using standards developed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards as the cornerstone for teacher development and evaluation.

"Standards are valuable not only in the context of formal certification systems," the report notes. "They can inform professional development efforts ranging from graduate school courses to local seminars and videotape groups that allow teachers to see the standards in action and reflect on their own practice."

The report says most professional development dollars are spent either reimbursing teachers for courses that may not be directly related to school needs or their classroom responsibilities or for district workshops. "As traditionally organized, inservice education-- usually conducted as mass-produced hit-and-run workshops--is not well suited to helping teachers with the most pressing challenges they face in deepening their subject matter knowledge, responding to student diversity, or teaching more effectively."

What Matters Most cites the benefits of teacher networks and school-university partnerships such as professional development schools. "Unlike old approaches that see professional development as delivering simple recipes to teachers working in isolation," the report says,
"These new approaches connect teachers to one another through in-school teams and cross-school professional communities that tackle problems of practice over time."

These approaches offer a connection to teachers' work with their students, a link to the concrete tasks of teaching, a focus on problem solving, a research base, and continuation over time through sustained conversations and coaching.

The Commission recommends devoting at least one percent of state and local education funding to high-quality professional development that is organized around standards for student learning and for accomplished teaching practice.

Schools, school districts, and universities can provide new sources of professional development through teacher academies, school-university partnerships, professional development schools, and networks.

Ongoing professional development can be incorporated into teachers' daily work through joint planning, research, curriculum and assessment work, study groups, and peer coaching.

"Standards for students and teachers are the key to reforming American education. Access to competent teaching must become a new student right. Access to high-quality preparation, induction, and professional development must become a new teacher right. The reform movement of the last decade cannot succeed unless it attends to the improvement of teaching," the report says.

"If we pay attention to supporting knowledgeable teachers who work in productive schools, American education need suffer through no more dead-end reforms," the report concludes.

National Commission's Recommendations Are:

Get serious about standards for students and teachers.
--Develop and enforce rigorous standards for teacher preparation, initial licensing, and professional development.
--Establish a professional standards board in every state. Insist on accreditation for all schools of education.

Reinvent teacher preparation and professional development.
--Organize teacher education and professional development around standards for students and teachers. Create stable, high-quality sources of professional development.
--Provide a year long internship in a professional development school for preservice teachers.
-- Create and fund mentoring for beginning teachers along with evaluation of teaching skills.

Fix teacher recruitment and put qualified teachers in every classroom.
--Increase the ability of low-wealth districts to pay for qualified teachers and insist districts hire only qualified teachers.
--Eliminate barriers to teacher mobility.
--Aggressively recruit high-need teachers and provide financial incentives for teaching in shortage areas.

Encourage and reward teacher knowledge and skill.
--Develop a career continuum for teaching linked to assessments and compensation systems to reward knowledge and skill.
- Set goals and enact incentives for National Board certification.

Organize schools so students and teachers can be successful.
--Flatten hierarchies and reallocate resources to send more dollars to schools. Invest more in teachers and technology, less in non-teaching staff.
--Provide challenge grants to schools for teacher learning linked to improvements.


Copies of What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future are available for $20 from the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future, P.O. Box 5239, Woodbridge, VA 22194-5239. Phone 212-678-3204. A video is also available for $15. Bulk rates are available.

The Commission's web site is at http://www.tc.columbia.edu/~teachcomm

 



A Professional Continuum for Teacher Development

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Recruitment to a teacher education program: based on academic background and ability to work with children Preservice preparation in an NCATE accredited school of education Initial Intern License: Based on INTASC tests of subject matter and teaching knowledge Initial Teacher Induction :1-2 years of early career mentoring and evaluation Continuing License: Based on INTASC performance assessments, including a portfolio of videotaped lessons, written evaluations, and student work On-going professional development in and out of the classroom Advanced Certification: Based on NBPTS performance assessments, including a portfolio of videotaped lessons, written evaluations, and student work


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