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Editorial: State has room to grow, and can, with teachers

Last Modified: Sunday, February 03, 2013 7:23 PM

Louisiana’s “C” grade in teacher preparation falls short of where our state needs to be, but should not be cause for undue alarm.

The ratings by the National Council on Teacher Quality suggest Louisiana is improving its policies for how we prepare teachers, demanding some accountability and doing better work with middle school teachers.

The annual review of policies by NCTQ, which describes itself as a non-partisan research group, is funded by such organizations at the Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corp. and the Walton Family Foundation, and should provide the state with some direction for improvement.

Keep in mind, Louisiana’s grade was better than the national average grade of D- and no state scored better than B-, so our pathway to the front of the class ought to be relatively clear, if state education leaders value the NCTQ’s work. Perceived weak points in Louisiana’s teacher preparation efforts ought not surprise anyone — some have been discussion points for years.

For example, the review suggests that Louisiana ought to toughen standards for entrance to teacher prep programs. The report suggests a common admissions test “normed to the general college-bound population” should set the standard at the top 50th percentile. Shouldn’t we demand at least that for those who would stand at the head of the class?

The report also suggests more meaningful academic study, both in the liberal arts and in the would-be teacher’s specific course content. More specifically, it suggests fewer courses on teaching strategy and more on the subject matter. The demand would be that high school teachers and special ed teachers improve their subject mastery, and that elementary school teachers — oftentimes generalists — hold a specialization in an academic subject area. None of this is new; all of it is sensible.

And before we look too much toward the dark side of the report, there are bright spots. The report says the state does well in middle school teacher preparation — no small feat, that — and in teacher prep program accountability. Good for us.

Important, too, the review says, is that Louisiana beef up its student teaching requirement to at least 10 weeks. That would ensure enough classroom time and exposure for would-be teachers to professionals.

This too is important: The report suggests that not all practice teaching experiences are good ones, that, nationally, three in four states lack policies that require that mentoring teachers actually be top-notch. There should be no shortage of exemplary teachers to mentor student teachers in Louisiana, which should be among the states that insist aspiring teachers have excellent role models and guides during their practice teaching experience.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

Posted By: Lottie P. Beebe, BESE DIstrict 3 On: 2/4/2013

Title: Editorial: State has room to grow, and can, with teachers

As a Louisiana educator who had the pleasure of serving under the leadership of the now deceased Louisiana Superintendent of Education, Cecil Picard, I recall his efforts to improve teacher quality. His legacy within the education profession was his advocacy for teacher quality and quality professional learning opportunities. Upon learning of the most recent grade assigned to Louisiana regarding teacher quality, I vividly recalled Superintendent Picard’s efforts and the distinct honor bestowed upon Louisiana by the National Teacher Quality Teacher Council. Please see below:
“Louisiana is proud of the progress it has made in these areas. For the second year in a row, Louisiana’s efforts to improve teacher quality were ranked first in the nation according to a report released in December 2005 by Education Week, the nation’s foremost K-12 education magazine. Equally impressive, Louisiana ranked number one for its standards and accountability for the second time in three years among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Louisiana’s teacher quality efforts earned the state one of only two “A’s” given in 2006. The state’s score of 94 is up one point, from 93 in 2005. Before its first number one ranking in 2005, Louisiana had ranked fifth in the nation in 2004 and twelfth in the nation in 2003. In standards and accountability, eight states, including Louisiana, earned an “A” in 2006. The state’s score of 98 – the same as in 2005 – ranked the state first in the nation, ahead of New York, Massachusetts and South Carolina.” Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/teacherqual/hqtplans/la.doc
Now, in 2013, the most recent grade is a C assigned by the National Council on Teacher Quality; the council cited basic weaknesses at the college level as published in the January 22 edition of the Monroe News Star.
“But Dr. Jeanne Burnes, Associate Commissioner of Higher Education for teacher education initiatives, says the NCTQ study is flawed because Louisiana has addressed the concerns in the report.” How can this be I thought and I then reflected on Dr. Burn’s response to the report, specifically, when efforts have been to strengthen and evaluate teacher preparation programs. Well, the answer to my question soon surfaced with a google to the National Teacher Quality Council website. This is what I discovered and please note that Paul G. Pastorek—yes, former Louisiana Superintendent of Education—the individual who abruptly abandoned his post to pursue other endeavors—is a member of the NCTQ BOARD of Directors and look who the major players are within the NCTQ:
Bill and Melinda Gates, Wendy Kopp, TFA, and Michelle Rhee. Do you see any biases?

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