Evaluating Teacher Ed

Many new teachers feel prepared for their jobs and intend to stick around, but still seek training in areas such as teaching non-native English speakers, new study says.
July 24, 2009

Many teachers who have recently entered the field feel prepared for their jobs, but still seek training in crucial areas such as classroom management and teaching non-native English speakers, a new study says.

The report, released earlier this month by Eduventures, a consulting firm, surveyed 1,504 teachers and 130 administrators nationwide who have started to work in the last five years. Seventy-eight percent of the teachers said they felt prepared or well-prepared, and 91 percent initially plan to remain in the field. Despite such intentions, the report notes, other studies have shown that, in fact, one-third of teachers leave the field annually.

Successes aside, teacher education programs still have many gaps to close, according to Eduventures' poll. For example, more than half of the teachers polled said they desired more professional training to learn how to manage a classroom and integrate technology into the curriculum. Teachers in suburban school districts reported feeling slightly more prepared overall than their counterparts in urban and rural areas.

Meanwhile, 41 percent reported feeling unprepared to teach non-native English speakers -- but only one-third said they wanted to receive professional development to teach those students. Kristen Fox, the study's lead researcher and program director of Eduventures, said teachers may not prioritize that type of training once in the classroom because English-language learners are not common in their districts or are primarily taught by language specialists.

Regardless, educators should learn how to meet those students' needs, Fox said. "We know there are more and more students who come into school systems who don't speak English as their first language. There need to be teachers who will be able to support students," she said.

Teachers who trained through nontraditional programs, such as Teach for America, reported feeling better prepared to instruct English-language learners and integrate technology than those coming through traditional university programs. The survey did not gather information as to why. However, it found that it made no significant difference in educators' levels of preparation or plans to stay in the field.

Overall, the best way to train future educators is to place them in real classrooms for extended periods of time. While only 64 percent of teachers with no field experience reported that they felt prepared when they started teaching, 81 percent of those with at least six to 12 months of experience felt prepared.

Sharon Robinson, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said the report's findings match the many concerns her organization is grappling with. She especially agreed with its emphasis on clinical training.

"Programs have to prepare for the realities in schools, and that means schools will face diverse learners, they will need to use technology and they'll need to prepare all students with more rigorous content, to master skills and content that have never been expected of us before," she said.


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