Board of Education Toughens Standards for Aspiring Classroom Teachers

The long awaited PARCC test scores are in the pipeline. School districts now have on-line access to high school scores. They’ll be able to download elementary and middle school scores next week. The majority of students failed to meet grade-level expectations. The State Board of Education says the scores will be used as a baseline for future improvement. They’ve already started that process by toughening standards for aspiring classroom teachers. Education majors will be required to add 175 hours of clinical hours in classrooms, in addition to a year of student teaching. And they’ll have to train in multiple types of classrooms, including at least one containing students with disabilities. Professor Dan Katz is in the Department of Educational Studies at Seton Hall University.

Williams: How do this new requirements differ from previous ones?

Katz: Largely the state is raising the bar for students who want to become school teachers. In this particular case, as you just mentioned, it’s absolutely true, students are going to be moving into having to do a full year of student teaching, were previously they had to do a set number of weeks. And they are going to have more intensive requirements for being in classrooms in different settings, prior to getting to that point.

In addition, this is on top of previous changes, that the Department of Education has made raising the GPA requirements and raising the incoming student requirements as well.

Williams: Some universities have said this requirements are too onerous for kids and they are going to have problems figuring out the course time. It throws the curriculum.

Katz: I think that’s right. One of the things that’s really important when considering changes of this nature, considering changes that are very large, is really stop and think about what are all of the interconnected parts, not just the interconnected parts but what’s the research base for saying that this is actually going to graduate people who are better prepared to be teachers.

In this case, increasing the amount of time in classrooms, has a really strong potential benefit. One thing that you see in teacher education literature over the decades is one of the biggest phenomena we tend to see, is that when we take somebody whose been a good student in school, whose been a good student of teaching in college, and put them in what we call the other side of the desk, there can be a real shock from just how different it is to have to pay attention to the learning of 30 students at once, than it was when you were sitting there paying attention to your own learning.

There’s strong potential but there is also big questions about capacity.

William: And the potential for students to say “this means another year of school, too much tuition, I’m not going to do it.”

Katz: Absolutely, I am personally very concerned. We’ve been getting good strong candidates over the years out of non-traditional pathways like getting an Associates Degree at community college and then coming to us sort of halfway through their schooling. Under the old regulations I’ve been able to graduate those students.

In our program, in our department, we are not going to have trouble meeting the requirements for the number of hours in classrooms before they get to student teaching. We have already had extensive field experiences, but to say a full year on top of those, that’s going to be a logistical challenge. I’m still wondering how we are going to be able to make it so that transfer students for example are going to be able to complete in a time frame that meets their expectations and their plans.

Williams: Talk to me about the requirement that they work in classrooms with students with disabilities, why is that important now?

Katz: Students with disabilities have been a growing category. We are seeing that schools are realizing that, and specially in my area, secondary school, that we’ve not been doing as good a job as possible preparing teachers to work with those students.

For example, when you have a student who is classified with a disability you have what’s called a child study team, who work on their individualized education plan. Even if you are not a special education teacher you are supposed to be able to be a full participant in that. A lot of times the content classroom teachers feel they are getting a memo with what they are supposed to do, but they are not necessarily knowledgeable about what kind of input they are supposed to have into the process.

I think, again, there are very strong benefits that can come from this. To me the big question really is the logistics and the capacity building. If the past is any tell, we may not get that.