[I will be sending this letter personally to my own Rep and others; I encourage you to cut and paste as necessary and send it to yours.]
Within the near future, SB 51, which purports to raise standards for teacher education preparation programs in Delaware will come across to the House.
I am asking you to look past the "feel good" rhetoric in the precis of the bill, to look past the unanimous Senate vote in favor of it, and to look past the claims by the Governor's office that these changes will make Delaware eligible for additional Federal grant money.
Instead, please consider the following:
1. This bill was prepared and introduced without the input of the Professional Standards Board, the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wilmington University, or many relevant offices within the Delaware Department of Education. In other words, legislation that will make dramatic structural changes to teacher preparation and licensing are already coming to the General Assembly without any input or data from either the organizations that prepare our new teachers or the board which credentials them. This should be a red flag.
2. Delaware already has in place a rigorous set of standards for teacher preparation and certification. Our universities are accredited by NCATE [National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education], which enforces the toughest national standards in real time. Our Professional Standards Board has done yeoman work over the past two decades to tighten licensing requirements and carefully assess the qualifications of each applicant.
3. Our current approach works. Between the entrance and exit requirements, UD and DSU already winnow out over two-thirds of the students interested in teaching careers. All students graduating from UD, DSU, and WU have passed Praxis I and II; have logged hundreds of hours of observation and additional hundreds more hours of supervised teaching under the watchful eye of master teachers in our public schools. Compared to the standards even 10 years ago, new Delaware teachers graduated by these universities are the best prepared to enter the classroom in our history.
4. There is no research to suggest that our new teachers have significant problems in the classroom that impacts student learning. Aside from the anecdotal offerings you may have heard, when you inquire you will discover that there is no data suggesting that students with new teachers (a) fare less well on standardized tests; or (b) have greater disciplinary problems. If anything, our graduates are better prepared to handle the latest innovations in instructional technology than their peers, and understand the high-stakes testing environment better because they have lived through it as students.
5. SB 51, as amended by SA-1, will have a corrosive structural impact on Delaware's ability to train and certify new teachers that will far outweigh any positives received from Federal grant money. The changes in SB 51/SA-1 actually lower some credentialing standards rather than raise them [see the section on now accepting Composite Scores]. The sweeping provisions of this bill will literally require all credentialing standards in the State to be rewritten from the ground up. The new provisions for teacher preparation programs will not only waste valuable time in meaningless new compliance, but will also divert resources away from students, endanger the NCATE certification process, and serve to make it more difficult to recruit the "best and brightest" into public education.
I urge you to vote against this bill, either in committee or on the House floor.
If you believe that our teacher preparation and certification program needs revision, then I urge you to demand that legislation be crafted that (a) involves input and review from the Professional Standards Board and our universities; (b) is supported by actual research and data; and (c) is accompanied by an impact statement regarding how this will affect recruiting and certification of new teachers.
Please do not allow seriously flawed legislation to slip through on your watch because the precis of the bill uses bipartisan platitudes that would be better employed on a Hallmark greeting card than in a serious bill.
You can find your House Rep's email address here.
This is a bad bill. A very bad bill. Please do what you can to stop it.