Effectively Preparing Teachers
By Mike Edwards, State Board of Education Member for the Second Congressional District
Are new teachers ready for their first day in the classroom? That question is critical to the Tennessee State Board of Education. The state legislature gave the State Board the responsibility of approving the educator preparation providers (EPPs) that prepare teachers, principals, and other educators in our state. Those programs might be at traditional colleges and universities or at alternative providers that provide pathways for non-education majors become teachers.
As of 2019, there are 37 state-approved EPPs in Tennessee that train teachers. Over the past three years, these EPPs have instructed an average of about 3,400 new teachers annually. As with any other educational program or professional school, a rigorous approval process is necessary to ensure that educator preparation providers are delivering the knowledge, skills, and training that get students ready to perform their future career successfully.
Accountability has become a major part of public education. School districts, schools, and teachers are being measured by the success they are having in preparing their students to be successful at the next level. This focus on outcomes has represented a major shift in how we value public education. It has also revealed strengths and weaknesses in public education throughout America. If we expect teachers to be successful in the classroom, they must be able to function in a rapidly changing society where techniques of teaching that worked in years past may no longer be effective. This means EPPs must adapt their curricula and ensure their faculty are trained to teach new courses using diverse methods.
The State Board of Education is required to evaluate these EPPs to determine if they are meeting the needs of their students in preparing them to be successful educators. This month, the State Board of Education released its annual update to the Educator Preparation Report Card. That report is a way for the public to track how the state’s EPPs perform on a number of metrics that the State Board believes are key to the educational success of the state. In addition, each provider receives a much more detailed report from the state department of education, which is used to drive program improvement as well as the State Board’s approval decisions.
The evaluation process is never gleefully received by any type of education program – be it medical, liberal arts, law, accounting, or teaching. However, it is a most important function to ensure that college students who wish to become teachers are getting their money's worth. When prospective teachers may be accruing student debt or beginning to teach in sometimes difficult situations, it is critical that we engage them in ongoing coaching and evaluation from their program providers.
We know the most important person within public education is the student. Preparation programs are a critical component in achieving educational improvements in Tennessee and are necessary to provide the support that new teachers in the profession need to be successful and help guide the next generation.
The State Board of Education is the governing and policy-making body for Tennessee’s preK-12 public education system, and through a close partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education, maintains oversight in K-12 implementation and academic standards. Its eleven-member board, composed of representatives from each congressional district and a student member are unpaid governor’s appointees and confirmed by the legislature to serve five-year terms. The executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission serves as an ex-officio, non-voting member.