On Feb. 27, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training met in a joint hearing entitled “Exploring Efforts to Strengthen the Teaching Profession.”
The discussion was driven by a panel of four witnesses representing teacher preparation programs and efforts throughout the nation. They discussed elements of their respective programs and how those can be duplicated or utilized. They also offered views on how the federal government and states can be useful in strengthening teacher training, support and certification.
There was consensus among the panelists on many topics. Some of those include:
- The necessity of a mentor for new teachers. Rhode Island assigns a teacher/coach to every new teacher to serve as a trusted adviser who is there to provide support but not evaluate.
- The need for a diverse workforce of teachers equipped to address the diverse settings in which they teach.
- A desire to see reporting requirements at the federal level significantly reduced and improved so that the data collected is useful to states and programs in accomplishing their teacher preparation goals.
- Encouraging a more innovative and collaborative approach to preparing teachers for the workforce. This includes collaboration of all available resources: higher education, districts, schools, teachers and etc.
- The importance of ample and meaningful clinical training that exposes potential teachers to the varying types of schools and settings they will encounter.
The panel was also asked about the use of high stakes testing to measure how well a training program prepares teachers for the field. While one panelist said such tests are too inconsistent and unstable to use as a valid measurement, the others felt they could be used to an extent. They agreed that test scores should be used carefully and among multiple measures. One panelist added that her program uses a composite of student achievement over three years as a part of an overall assessment of teacher preparedness.
There was also a varying degree of support for differentiated pay as a tool to better recruit and retain teachers of different fields – particularly mathematics and science teachers due to the significant pay gap between using their expertise as a teacher versus another industry. The panelists felt differentiated pay could be useful but that it would need to be used carefully. One panelist stressed how cautious a state should move forward with such a plan in order to prevent other critical teachers from being underpaid or undervalued. The panelists all agreed that raising teacher compensation would improve teacher recruitment and retention.
ATPE submitted written testimony to the subcommittees in response to the hearing. Our testimony addresses policy recommendations for both the federal and state governments on strengthening the teaching profession. View our written comments here.