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Letter to the Senate in connection with March 25 hearing on teacher preparation

March 24, 2014

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, we would like to offer our views in advance of tomorrow’s hearing, “Teacher Preparation: Ensuring a Quality Teacher in Every Classroom.”

NEA is committed to having students taught by a diverse, fully trained and prepared workforce because classroom teachers are one of the most important school-based factors influencing student success. NEA believes that all teachers should be “profession-ready” from their first day of being responsible for student learning. Profession-ready means that a teacher has:

  • Had extensive opportunities to develop and learn teaching and basic classroom management skills.
  • Demonstrated the ability to plan and deliver instruction to students with different learning styles, and also to assess and support student learning.
  • Worked with accomplished educators to understand the value of collaboration and reflection.
  • Learned firsthand the importance of the connection between home and school.

Teacher preparation plays a critical role in ensuring that teachers are prepared to lead and impact student learning from the first day they are responsible for student learning. To help ensure that teachers are profession-ready, teacher preparation programs should include comprehensive residency programs. Such programs go beyond the traditional student teaching capstone experience — they engage a candidate in a series of school-based experiences and teaching opportunities under the guidance of an accomplished teacher while simultaneously applying theories learned from coursework.

NEA convened a task force — composed of teachers, state and local union leaders, and experts in teacher preparation — to explore the creation of high-quality residency programs and delve into such guiding questions as:

  • How might residencies work for all teacher candidates?
  • How would preparation programs change if residencies were required before teachers were assigned their own classrooms?
  • How would a residency program for a bachelor’s degree student differ from one for a master’s degree student?
  • What role might current teachers play in a residency program?

Based on the work of the task force, NEA developed a series of recommendations on how best to develop high-quality residency programs that promote more comprehensive preparation systems through the active engagement of stakeholders. For details, please see Teacher Residencies: Redefining Preparation Through Partnerships.

As part of their preparation before becoming a teacher-of-record, teacher candidates should be required to demonstrate that they have the skills and knowledge necessary for effective classroom practice. While teachers continue to learn and grow after entering the profession, no candidate should ever be called a “teacher” without demonstrating the ability to improve student learning. Candidates who are placed in classrooms and expected to learn how to teach on the job are not profession-ready. For details, please see NEA’s Policy Brief, Profession-Ready Teachers.

Lastly, we believe that prior to receiving full state licensure, teacher candidates should be required to complete a pre-service, classroom-based performance assessment like edTPA. Designed for the profession by the profession, edTPA was developed by teachers and teacher educators from across the nation in collaboration with faculty and staff from Stanford University. To ensure that teacher candidates are profession-ready, edTPA requires candidates to demonstrate mastery of both subject matter and pedagogy in their field, as well as the ability to improve student learning. For details, please see Prepare Tomorrow’s Teachers with edTPA.

We thank the Committee for holding a hearing on this critical issue and for the opportunity to submit these views. We look forward to working with the Committee going forward.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations