Excellent Teachers for Each and Every Child: A Guide for State Policy was released in early December. It is a new and comprehensive set of recommendations on teacher education and quality that has been released by the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, NEA, AFT, AACTE, the Center for Teaching Quality, and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. It can be found at http://www.teachingquality.org/sites/default/files/teaching-quality-policy-guide(1).pdf.
The report is more of a summary of what is a complete set of recommendations designed to answer the questions “what is quality teaching, and how can a state create the conditions to ensure that every child has a high quality teacher?” They suggest that the answer is in reality a systems perspective that includes the following interrelated elements: recruitment, preparation, professional learning and development, evaluation systems, equitable teaching and learning conditions, and funding. While they define each of these areas and provide examples of need as well as answers in a wide array of states, the report is much more of a portal to recommendations in each area that are further defined by going to the websites they propose. In discussing these issues the paper also highlights many of the problems facing teacher education, such as teachers needing a wide range of skills to work with a highly diverse student body and the issue of new teachers being assigned to schools with the highest needs.
While lacking in details itself, the paper doesn't duck any of the important issues. A policy maker can not escape the conclusion that by addressing only one of these elements they would fail to impact the elusive goal of providing an excellent teacher for each child. Yet, at the same time, in not being detailed, the report fails to take into consideration the cost and complexity of such a comprehensive approach. However, while not providing all of the answers, it does provide a broad direction that policy must take in order to have the teaching quality most other reports are calling for but not providing.
Richard Long is the director of government relations at the International Reading Association.