Back in January, Governor Markell delivered his State of the State and called the legislature to action on strengthening the preparation of teachers in Delaware. The bill moved through the State Senate and the House, with endorsing testimony from the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA). Last week, the Governor signed this bill into law, profoundly strengthening the way teachers will be trained in the First State.
Let’s face it, Delaware is a small state. With only four teacher preparation programs, it has the potential to be a national leader. The problem is, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, we’re not. Today, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its first annual Teacher Prep Review, a review of 1,200 elementary secondary preparation programs throughout the US. The ratings that NCTQ gave Delaware’s teacher preparation programs weren’t much to brag about (the state’s highest ranking program received a 2.5 out of 4 stars). Frankly, this didn’t come as a surprise.
NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review pushes for an environment of transparency, collaboration, and some tough discussions about how to move the needle forward in teacher prep. And it provides all of us (parents, teachers, prospective teachers as consumers, students, policy makers, district HR directors) an opportunity to assess and compare our state’s teacher preparation programs to its national counterparts. (It’s important to note that information like this, on a national level, has never been so readily available and current. The US Department of Education has the Title II report; however, it’s self-reported and has a two year lag.) In Delaware, the Governor’s teacher prep legislation, coupled with the Teacher Prep Review, will hopefully serve as a wellspring for open dialogue centered on the promise of having a great teacher in every Delaware classroom. By requiring that all teacher prep programs in the state annually collect data on its students, as it is now mandated in SB51, these conversations should happen in a way that involves all stakeholders in the teacher preparation pipeline. And because Delaware’s four teacher prep programs only train 60% of our state’s educators, we’ll have to work with other states to raise the bar for those prepared elsewhere.
I’d like to end on this note: As the field of medicine has become more complex, so too have the entrance and exit standards for medical school. As the professional standards for structural engineering have become more stringent, it has become harder to enter programs to prepare for the profession and become certified upon program completion. Teaching, as a profession, should be no different. SB51 and the Teacher Prep Review are making the case for this.