Assessing how we teach our teachers

Burlington County Times

By Assemblyman Troy Singleton

Collectively, as a state, we have a vested interest in the outcomes of our students. Bright, well-prepared students are the cornerstone of a healthy economy and a vibrant quality of life for our state as a whole.

In order for our teachers to turn out college- and career-ready students, policymakers must ensure that they are given the academic foundation necessary to prepare them for the educational stewardship of our future generations.

Nationally, a growing consensus of educational policy leaders and practitioners has come to the conclusion that the traditional methods of teacher preparation are not sufficient and in need of improvement. Many states are looking to improve the quality of their teaching pool by evaluating and reconfiguring the programs that are designed to prepare them for life in the classroom, and New Jersey should follow suit.

According to researchers, the quality of the teacher in the classroom is the single most important factor within a school related to student achievement. This fundamental point illustrates how vital our state’s teacher preparation programs are and why they must be continuously evaluated and improved.

New Jersey, like most states, already possesses tools such as: teacher licensing and the development of program admission standards and requirements to ensure that teachers are sufficiently trained. However, New Jersey does not effectively leverage those tools to enhance teacher quality. This is a critical point since New Jersey’s recently enacted evaluation structure holds our teachers accountable for their work, yet offers no analysis of the teacher preparation programs that trained them.

I am working on a proposal that would direct the State Board of Education, in consultation with an advisory panel of educational professionals, to establish standards for the improvement of teacher preparation programs and raise the bar for students looking to become teachers.

Under the proposed legislation, every teacher preparation program will annually report its performance on the following benchmarks to the Department of Education, and the department will make the information available to the public on its website: (1) the attrition, retention and completion rates of candidates for teacher certification enrolled in the program; (2) the average score of candidates for teacher certification on the appropriate state test of subject matter knowledge required for each endorsement to the instructional certificate; (3) the percentage of candidates for teacher certification who complete the program and obtain a full-time or part-time teaching position; and (4) the name of the school district, nonpublic school or other entity where the candidate obtained employment. Based on the reported information, the state board is to establish a rating system for teacher preparation programs and will also make those ratings available for public inspection on its website.

We cannot solely measure teachers by their output without holding the institutions that train them accountable as well. My proposal seeks to address that concern by creating a system of accountability for teacher preparation programs and ensuring shared responsibility for the teachers they graduate.

Through this measure, we can foster cohesion between the New Jersey institutions that prepare our teachers and those that will employ them, creating a better education system for our children and the future of our state.