Report: Time to Test New Forms of Teacher Prep

An organization advocating for personalized learning and competency-based education has issued a brief intended to help federal decisionmakers improve professional development for teachers. Among the ideas put forward by iNACOL in "Developing a Modern Teacher Workforce" is to diversify pathways into the profession and redesign teacher preparation programs and systems of assessment and evaluation.

iNACOL suggested that teacher shortages that have beset many states could serve as an opportunity to "increase access and affordability to diversify educator talent pools." Among the suggestions:

  • Lowering the cost of teacher training programs and increasing availability to loans and loan forgiveness for the "highest-need students";

  • Promoting competency-based models in higher education by pegging loans not to credits based on seat-time hours but on other outcomes, such as demonstration of competency in program and state standards; and

  • Seeking out "mid-career professionals [and] veterans" as possible teacher candidates.

Redesigning teacher training, advised the report, needs to start with a pilot program that could:

  • Test new approaches in building teacher knowledge and skill in areas that mesh with the precepts of student-centered learning and 21st-century outcomes;

  • Integrate proven innovations in adult learning, such as clinical practice, problem- and project-based learning, mentorship and induction support; and

  • Come up with professional pathways that emphasize microcredentials and alternative forms of recognition in professional development.

In the area of assessments, the report promoted the removal of barriers preventing states from participating in the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA). This is a U.S. Department of Education program set up in the latest version of the Every Student Succeeds Act that allows up to seven state education agencies to run innovative assessment systems in its schools. iNACOL would like to see the possible number of participating agencies increased, greater funding and more time given to states for scaling up their new assessment programs. The hope is that these assessment systems will be designed in a way that help teachers become more data-literate and useful in informing their instruction.

"Preparing students for success in an increasingly complex future demands that we support educators to develop contemporary learning theory with deeper knowledge, strategies and skill sets than that required of educators in the industrial age, which is a model that still dominates our current school system," said iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick, in a statement. "Moving to a future state of teaching requires supporting educators, modernizing teacher and leader preparation and focusing on inquiry, research and practice. And it means using the policy levers we have under our control today to create change."

The new policy brief builds on a larger report, Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education, published last year.

Both reports are openly available on the iNACOL website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.