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Advancing Our Schools Through a Strong Teacher Workforce

Wednesday, February 05, 2020 | 10:00am

By Elissa Kim, State Board of Education member for the 5th Congressional district

Teachers are the heart of every successful school. Every day, teachers dedicate their time and energy to prepare the next generation for success in college and the world beyond. To meet that challenge, teachers must be well versed in the content they’re covering, the best ways to deliver it, and the science of learning and connection. In Tennessee, we want to make sure every teacher has the chance to master those skills, no matter how they reach the classroom.

People assume that nearly all teachers arrive on the job after earning a four-year undergraduate degree in education. But in reality, there are many different ways to earn a teaching certificate, which reflect the diversity and flexibility of our education system. There are more than 40 educator preparation providers in Tennessee, giving people many options for transferring their drive and talent into the teaching profession. It’s especially important that mid-career professionals — people with experience in other fields from biology, computer science, to welding — can get the added training they need to bring real-world expertise to our students.

In 2018, 47 percent of those graduating from teacher preparation programs took a traditional bachelors-degree pathway. Twenty-seven percent of program completers chose a job-embedded pathway, which provide an alternate route into the classroom while maintaining high standards. Programs like the Memphis Teacher Residency and Teach for America have consistently earned high marks in Tennessee, proving there’s more than one pathway to becoming an effective teacher.

No matter how they come into the profession, all educators need a sound base of knowledge in the curriculum they’ll be covering. That includes training in core content areas, from elementary education to high school science, depending on what each educator plans to teach. It also includes a foundation in learning science and instructional strategies to support different students’ needs.

It’s up to the different preparation programs across our state to make sure that every new teacher has the ability to meet the challenges they will face in the classroom. And it’s up to those of us at the State Board of Education to hold those programs accountable and share best practices.

We’re eager for all the information, ideas and research we can find on bringing new talent into the classroom and growing the pipeline of great teachers in Tennessee. Our annual Educator Preparation Report Card, prepared with advice and guidance from educators and advocates across the state, is an important tool for improving teacher preparation programs and maintaining high standards across the state.

We look at employment outcomes in Tennessee schools, teachers’ eventual impact on the students they’re teaching, and whether programs succeed in preparing candidates for high-demand content areas like English as a second language (ESL) and special education. The idea is to better understand the effectiveness of different preparation programs and share best practices across the state so we strengthen the entire teaching profession. This year’s Educator Preparation Report Card has been redesigned to become an even greater resource for prospective educators in Tennessee.

Welcoming and supporting talented new teachers is one of the most important things we can do for our students and our state. Tennesseans should know that smart, driven people have an open invitation to serve in our schools, whether they’re just starting their college careers or just starting a new career. We make room for creative routes to prepare new teachers so we can keep the door open to more Volunteers.

The Educator Preparation Report Card will be released on February 14, 2020, at 12 PM CT. Archived reports, EPP reports, and other resources on teacher preparation in Tennessee are available on the State Board website.

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Elissa Kim currently represents the 5th district on the Tennessee State Board of Education. Kim was elected to the Metro
Nashville Public Schools Board of Education in 2012 and was appointed to the State Board of Education in 2016 by
Governor Bill Haslam.

The Tennessee State Board of Education is a ten-member, governor-appointed and legislatively confirmed board charged
under the law with rulemaking and policymaking for K-12 education. Through a close partnership with the Tennessee
Department of Education, the Board maintains oversight in K-12 implementation and academic standards.