I have met some amazing teachers in Tennessee. Whether serving elementary or high school students in rural or urban areas across the state, they are all dedicated to their profession and most importantly to the success of their students. We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about what we want from teachers, but we do not necessarily give enough attention to the preparation and ongoing training that they go through to become great teachers. In the process of gathering information for SCORE’s latest policy memo, Teacher Licensure in Tennessee, I found myself immersed in the world of teacher training and requirements. The topic of licensure looks at everything from the programs that prepare teachers to the regulations that determine the subject areas and grade levels they can teach.
I’d like to share with you the key points I learned when writing this memo:
• We need recruitment strategies that expand the pool of applicants and attract our brightest, most talented young people into the teaching profession.
• We expect so much from our teachers and we know how important they are to student learning. The process for preparing and licensing teachers must reflect the high expectations to which we hold all educators.
• We must ensure that new teachers are prepared with the resources and supports they need to be successful in the classroom from the very beginning.
This memo comes on the heels of the state’s annual Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs, which provides information on how well the state’s universities and alternative providers are preparing graduates to be successful in the classroom. The 2012 report card shows that while several programs in the state are producing highly effective teachers, there are also many programs whose recent graduates are not performing at the level they need to be in order to improve student learning. This has to change. And, given the United States’ declining status as an international leader in education, we should be looking beyond our country’s borders for examples to follow. For instance, Finland has vastly improved its education system for all students – part of this progress is directly related to the nation’s rigorous teacher selection process and training requirements. Teaching is one of the most sought after, highly-regarded professions in the country. Given the incredible responsibility that teachers have and their significant impact on student success, shouldn’t teaching be among the most respected professions in all countries? What can Tennessee do to set the bar?