Classroom teachers increasingly are feeling the heat to raise student achievement levels. It is quite appropriate that close attention is falling also on those who teach the teachers and how well they are doing the job of producing candidates able to meet the new demands of the classroom. Two reports this month — one by the Ohio Board of Regents and the other by the National Council on Teacher Quality — offer a sense of the expectations and challenges facing policymakers and institutions that train Ohio’s teachers and principals.
Ohio is looking to teachers to lead the way to a school system that produces world-class results. The goal demands a high degree of professionalism from teachers: superior content knowledge; skills in motivating and guiding learning; an ability to control the learning environment. Like many other states, Ohio is moving toward pegging the retention, promotion and compensation of teachers in part to student growth and achievement. But a world-class system depends on a framework of policies and programs that give prospective candidates the training to ensure they succeed.
How does Ohio rate in teaching its teachers?
The Council on Teacher Quality gave the state a C-minus overall, identifying several weaknesses in policies on teacher preparation. In particular, the report noted that admission requirements are not sufficiently selective to ensure that candidates have strong academic records. That finding also is reflected to a degree in the report by the Board of Regents, which showed that a mere half or so of the colleges have a minimum GPA requirement for acceptance, and that statewide, the average minimum for admission into a program is a C-plus.
The areas of policy deficiencies the national report flagged included teacher preparation in elementary and special education and opportunities for effective student-teaching experiences. More, the regents report indicated that the passage rate for Ohio’s teacher licensure exam is high — at 96 percent, a virtual guarantee for a teaching license. How rigorous is an exam when nearly everyone receives a passing mark?
Encouraging, Ohio gets credit for efforts it now is making to hold colleges of education accountable for the professional quality of their graduates. One of only eight states to do so, Ohio, via the regents, reports for each college the percentage of its recent graduates whose students made at least a year’s worth of academic progress in a single school year (the value-added measure on the Ohio school report card). By connecting student growth to the teachers and the colleges where they trained, the regents are demanding quality control.
For Ohio to attract the best students into teaching, it must put in place policies that enhance the status and prestige of the profession. That includes being more selective about the academic strength of both the candidates and the programs that prepare them. As the national survey shows, Ohio is making progress but not nearly enough.