Monday, January 11, 2010

Evidence as Central, not Peripheral to Excellent Policy

by Guest Blogger, Candice DePrang

An NCATE Blue Ribbon Panel met last week to hear from different stakeholders regarding the restructuring of the preparation of teachers. The Council is looking for a clinical component – field experience like other practice-based professions such as nursing – in order to equip aspiring teachers with, not only experience, but an understanding of their work that reaches beyond text books and theory.

Clinicals, NCATE suggests, will mean “more extensive use of simulations, case studies, analyses of teaching…as well as sustained, intense, mentored school-embedded experiences.” Additionally, student teachers will be evaluated on performance, not simply test scores and grades.

New vision is important, and raising standards for teachers is a significant piece to ensuring that every child learns because s/he has an excellent teacher. However, the partners in this initiative must not weigh the research of clinicals on the periphery, but gather more data where current studies cannot determine which practices in teacher preparation are actually successful.

Research is one piece of NCATE’s look into clinicals, and must be central in moving forward so that excellent, sustainable policies emerge from these forums. Evidence-based policy ensures that groups don’t have to use rhetoric like “clinicals could help with X problem” or “experience in the field may mean…” Rather, the education community can walk forward confident that new standards for teacher preparation are an effort that will be long lasting because it’s proven to work, and that as higher education folds in field-training, that teachers will be better prepared, and students will be better served.

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