Arizona scores low in teacher preparation

Arizona is lacking policies that enforce proper training of future teachers, a study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found.

In its 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, the nonpartisan research group based in Washington D.C., rated the delivery of well-prepared teachers as a D- in 2011 for Arizona.

Arizona’s score in 2009 was a D.

While officials from the NCTQ say that Arizona lawmakers needs to create policies that screen students entering teacher preparation programs, and to test their academic and teaching aptitudes, educators say that the study is harsh on education facilities because it doesn’t look at all aspects of teacher preparation.

The study does not criticize what higher education institutions are doing, but is taking a closer look at what policies states have in place to ensure teacher quality, said Arthur McKee, the managing director of teacher preparation studies for the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The research is supposed to drive action to get better teachers for children, and also to assist policymakers in the decisions they make, he said.

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Some things that the study spotlights as issues are:

–Lack of an admissions test into teacher preparation programs.

Forty states require an admission test in order to enter into a teacher preparation program with a university or college, McKee said. The other 10 states, including Arizona, lack a test, he said.

This is important because it weeds out people who don’t have the academic background to teach in a classroom, he said.

–No proper preparation of elementary teachers to teach common core standards such as math, reading and writing.

Arizona has is no policy in place that would require teachers to know common core subjects in depth, McKee said. This causes teachers to enter the classroom who don’t have enough knowledge about the subject they are teaching, he said.

–No requirement for high-quality student teaching.

There are two things that should be required when it comes to student teaching, McKee said. One, student teachers should be placed with mentor teachers who have a track record of effectiveness, McKee said.

In addition to this, student teaching should last at least 10 weeks, he said.

Some institution, like the University of Arizona, have longer student teaching programs, which is good, he said, but there needs to be a standard set by the state to get all institutions up to speed.

In addition to this, Arizona’s state policy does not require a licensing test for teachers to ensure that they understand the science of reading, McKee added.

“It has an enormous impact, which is seen in Massachusetts. They have a test, and has helped them climb the ladder of reading skills,” he said.

Also, in Arizona there is a lack in K-12 special education certification, he said.

“There needs be a special background knowledge of how to teach special education kids,” he said.

For example, someone who majored in elementary education shouldn’t go into a high school class to teach math or literature to special education children, McKee said.

Again, a state that does a good job at teacher preparation is Massachusetts, he said.

What separates them from other states is that they have rigorous test on how to teach reading and math, McKee said.

If you can’t pass you can’t teach in that state, he added.

The testing ensures that proficient teachers enter into schools, McKee said.

Teacher preparation is as essential to teaching, as medical training is for doctors, he added.

Ronald Marx, the dean of University of Arizona’s College of Education, criticized the study, and said that universities in Arizona are doing a good job at preparing future teachers.

Teacher education is a profound issue, and there have been changes done that NCTQ has not picked up in their study, he said.

In his opinion the three major universities in Arizona are doing a good job at making sure to properly train future teachers, Marx said.

“I think it is harsh and insensitive to teachers in schools,” he said about the study. This is because at UA alone, there are several things happening to prepare future teachers, he said.

The preparation programs are taking place in actual schools, he said. This allows a more clinical approach to teaching how to teach.

Marx does agree that there are policy changes that have to be made to further help education in the state of Arizona.

Instead of telling teachers how to teach, lawmakers should give education institutions the outcome they would like to see for children to achieve, he said.

The issue is that most policy makers aren’t education professionals, he said.

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