Today DSEA's Dir. of Legislation and Political Organizing Kristin Dwyer is testifying in support of what is being called the "Teacher Prep" bill, SB 51.
This bill "... strengthens teacher preparation by raising the standards for entry into the teaching profession. More specifically, the bill requires all Delaware teacher preparation programs to set high admission and completion requirements, to provide high-quality student teaching experiences and ongoing evaluation of program participants, and to prepare prospective elementary school teachers in age-appropriate literacy and mathematics instruction. Further, the bill requires preparation programs to track and report data on the effectiveness of their programs. Finally, the bill requires new educators to pass both an approved content-readiness exam and performance assessment before receiving an initial license, and requires special education teachers to demonstrate content knowledge if they plan to teach in a secondary subject."
It also gives DSEA a seat at the table to help develop the criteria for the exam and the assessment.Let's take this one point by point:
the bill requires all Delaware teacher preparation programs to set high admission and completion requirements
UD, DSU, and WU--the providers of 95% of the new teachers from DE institutions of higher learning already have high standards for entry and completion. At UD and DSU at least 40% of the applicants do not get into the teacher preparation program (WU is open enrollment), and at all three schools a large percentage of education majors who are not cutting it are diverted into other majors.
to provide high-quality student teaching experiences and ongoing evaluation of program participants
Contrary to practices many years ago, students at all three institutions begin early field experiences in real classrooms during their Sophomore year. By the time they qualify for student teaching, most have logged hundreds of hours of observation, and dozens of hours of actual teaching. Student teachers are thus far better prepared to take over classrooms quickly, and therefore often log 100+ more hours of actual teaching experience than their predecessors would have a decade ago.
Ongoing evaluation? All of these programs are evaluated on an ongoing basis by NCATE, which is the national standard for teacher education programs, and requires the schools to log not just the hours but the actual coursework of the students, so that it can be matched against what the university SAYS it is teaching. And as Wesley College learned a couple of years ago, NCATE will pull your accreditation if you stop measuring up. No program put together by the State is likely to equal NCATE in thoroughness or familiarity with best practice, which is why DE DOE turned over accreditation to them about 15 years ago.
NCATE accreditation is why all of those changes I spoke about above were made.
to prepare prospective elementary school teachers in age-appropriate literacy and mathematics instruction
In fact to improve age-appropriate literacy is why these universities have developed long-term working relationships with school districts throughout Delaware. For example, DSU has a long-term agreement with Red Clay that places students in the same building (and often under the same master teacher) for most of their early field experiences and student teaching, so that the master teacher has direct input on the student's progress (or lack of it).
the bill requires preparation programs to track and report data on the effectiveness of their programs.
As noted above, the institutions ALREADY do this, via NCATE. And it is ironic, because DE DOE knows this very well.
the bill requires new educators to pass both an approved content-readiness exam and performance assessment before receiving an initial license, and requires special education teachers to demonstrate content knowledge if they plan to teach in a secondary subject."
Uh, guys, education majors already have to pass content-approved exams (called Praxis II) before they go into a performance assessment (called "student teaching" wherein 50% of their grade is awarded by the master teacher not the university professor, meaning that current master teachers ALREADY possess a veto over the certification of new teachers).
Special Education teachers ALREADY need to pass Praxis II content tests.
This bill does nothing that is not already happening, except
It also gives DSEA a seat at the table to help develop the criteria for the exam and the assessment.
Now we see the crux of the issue. Veteran Delaware teachers have been involved in teacher preparation programs in Delaware from the get-go, as consultants, as master teachers, and often as adjunct professors. In fact, there is no shortage of input by Delaware teachers into these programs. The universities would be foolish in the extreme not to seek such input because it would cripple their programs and reduce their ability to get their graduates hired.
But the key here is that DSEA--not teachers but the statewide union leadership--wants "a seat at the table" to develop new local tests to either add onto or replace nationally normed teacher preparation exams.
We know how well creating local high-stakes tests worked out in student assessment, don't we? (Can you say DSTP, DCAS, SBA?)
And we all know how well Race to the Top and Vision 2015 have worked out for Delaware teachers with the state DSEA leadership having "a seat at the table."
We'll be a good decade recovering from that quality input.
Plus, you know that something is wrong when the leader of one of the state's largest locals (with over 1,700 members) breaks with the state leadership and does not endorse passage of this bill.