By Sarah Stevenson
In a recent speech at Teachers College of Columbia University, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for education colleges and other teacher preparation programs to continue to step up their efforts to prepare teachers for the 21st-century classroom.
Universities, colleges, and alternative certification programs alike are moving in the right direction—including offering online education courses—to help train teachers in the skills necessary to educate students for an increasingly global economy. Nevertheless, Secretary Duncan said a lot of work remains to be done.
"[T]he bar must be raised for successful teacher preparation programs because we ask much more of teachers today than even a decade ago," Duncan said in his remarks. He emphasized the importance of standards of accreditation for teacher education programs—in traditional as well as online education courses—noting that the most successful programs share a focus on improving student learning through good teaching and best practices.
Support for Online Education Course Programs
Both the NCATE, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and the AACTE, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, have backed aggressive efforts to improve the outcomes of teacher training programs, in part through promotion of classroom "residencies" and assessment of student teachers. Forward-thinking teacher training programs, whether a traditional program, an alternative certification program, or an online education course program, maintain a strong focus on practical experience.
Clearly, this move toward increasing the excellence of classroom teachers is also a good move for improving the education of our nation's children. Teacher training programs across the country are taking up Secretary Duncan's call to action. Many universities and teachers' colleges are partnering with charter schools, or opening lab schools, and creating stricter standards of supervision for student teachers.
Practical Experience Matters
Even in programs conducted primarily online, an education course should include the opportunity to gain practical experience student teaching. At the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, for example, students in the MA program in teaching are matched up with a K-12 school in their area for Guided Practice, a 20-week teacher training program with a mentor teacher.
Programs that include this level of in-person training help answer the Secretary of Education's call for better-prepared teachers. As Secretary Duncan himself put it, "it doesn't take an elite university and a big endowment to create a good teacher education program." What it takes is a real focus on imparting the practical skills teachers need in today's classroom.
"Great teachers," Duncan said, "strive to help every student unlock their potential and develop the habits of mind that will serve them for a lifetime."