It’s Time to Re-envision Teacher Prep

There’s a growing body of evidence that Hoosier students are falling behind in competing in the 21st century knowledge economy.

The most recent scores on ISTEP+ tests show the number of schools rated “F” on Indiana’s A- through-F grading system doubled. This comes under more rigorous standardized tests, which nearly two thirds of Indiana 10th graders failed to pass in math, and more than four in ten failed to pass in English Language Arts or science.

An international benchmarking exam reflects similarly dismal outcomes nationwide.

The Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which is administered to more than a half-million 15-year-olds in developed and developing countries around the globe, place our country far behind nations such as Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. The U.S. ranks 23rd in reading and 25th in science among 72 countries. Most troubling, we rank 39th in math, a standing that has declined in each three-year testing cycle since 2009.

These outcomes must serve as a wake-up call for Indiana’s public and private sector leaders. Without addressing our education challenges, too many individuals might fail to prosper, and the Indiana economy also stands at risk.

Indiana has a chance to act boldly in tackling our urgent education issues, and that requires doubling down on the key priority of re-envisioning our K-12 teacher workforce.

A recent report from a bipartisan study group of the National Conference of State Legislatures, “No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State,” highlights how states can drive education change by focusing on four key policy priorities.  Elevating the K-12 teaching profession is especially critical – and holds particular promise – in Indiana.

Re-envisioning teaching requires attracting the top high school graduates and rigorously preparing them for jobs in teaching. We also must provide intensive, hands-on classroom experience before students begin teaching. And we need to raise the status of the profession so that teachers are viewed with the same esteem as professionals like doctors and lawyers and compensated accordingly.

Other countries that have successfully overhauled their approach to teacher preparation and compensation offer a compelling roadmap. In those places, teachers receive career advancement opportunities that allow them more time for lesson planning and extend their impact in the classroom, with the added benefit of reducing teacher turnover. And by reallocating existing resources, the best teachers receive higher pay as recognition for their impact on student learning.

Indiana has a rare opportunity to carry out these changes. Our policy landscape allows for flexibility in how teachers are trained and compensated, and efforts are already underway in some teacher preparation programs, schools and districts to incorporate such practices. We need to build upon these examples and drive a fundamental shift across our state.

A full version of this article appeared in the Indianapolis Star on December 18, 2016.

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