Help on the way for Tennessee teachers

Help on the way for Tennessee teachers

June 20th, 2013 by By John Morgan in Opinion Columns

John G. Morgan, Chancellor, Tennessee Board of Regents

John G. Morgan, Chancellor, Tennessee Board of Regents

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

They say timing is everything.

Such is the case with the attention recently focused on evaluating teacher quality and the teacher education programs at our Tennessee Board of Regents universities.

On the positive side is a renewed emphasis on the importance of teachers and the programs that train them. On the negative, however, are quality ratings based on old data that do not reflect a bold new initiative of the TBR that is expected to transform education programs across the state this fall.

Over the past few years, universities and community colleges in the TBR system have been rewriting course curricula, developing mentorships with local school systems and rethinking the way teachers have traditionally been taught and trained in school. The end result is Ready2Teach, a proactive effort designed to help Tennessee turn the corner on improving teacher and student performance.

Ready2Teach puts more focus on teacher candidates learning in-depth content in the subject they plan to teach, applying problem-based learning and completing a year-long residency with experienced mentor teachers in a P-12 classroom. Program entrance requirements have been increased, and graduation requires a capstone performance-based assessment that requires future teachers to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and disposition.

We expect the new program to address many of the concerns highlighted in recent teacher quality reports from the state and in an upcoming Teacher Prep Review publication that will soon be released by the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report. These ratings currently making news rely on data from years past -- before the pilot Ready2Teach programs began -- and as a result do not always reflect well on most of our institutions' teacher training programs.

Despite the bad timing of these ratings, Tennesseans can take pride that our state colleges of education were already part of the national conversation about teacher quality and evaluation, and they designed and initiated the bold Ready2Teach program. The effort has already received national recognition and was designated as a model program in the Initiative to Transform Teacher Preparation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, formerly the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

We value data-informed decisions, and we respect the need for teacher quality reviews. It is just unfortunate that these reports are released at our time of transition and cannot reflect the exciting expected outcomes of our future graduates for years to come.

John Morgan is chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, among the nation's largest higher education systems. The TBR governs six regional universities, 13 community colleges and 27 technology centers across the state.