Best hope for schools is to train better teachers

By Camille Esch

Los Angeles Times

Published: Sunday, Nov. 28 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Beyond just collecting this type of data, states should ensure that universities use it to improve teacher preparation programs. This will look different at every college, but for starters it could include tightening standards for program entry and exit. Programs should also focus more on clinical training, and universities should dedicate more tuition revenue to teacher preparation instead of treating the training programs like cash cows to finance other priorities. School districts should carefully collect data on how a program's graduates perform in the classroom. And if, year after year, the data show dismal results for particular teacher preparation programs, then it's fair for the state to shut them down, as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said should be done.

But again, as with teachers, getting rid of a few bad programs isn't nearly as important as strengthening the programs that will continue to educate our teachers. With unemployment so high, it may be hard to imagine a time when many more new teachers will be needed, but as baby boomers retire over the coming decade, we'll need new teachers. And for the sake of children, we need people who are ready for the job on Day One.

Camille Esch is director of the California Education Program at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy think tank. She wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

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