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

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.