Student Teaching in America
Every year some 200,000 teacher candidates from 1,400 higher education institutions complete their student teaching requirement. In theory, student teaching is an opportunity for students to combine everything they’ve learned about the profession over the course of their training, and walk away prepared for the classroom. But in reality, how well are teacher-prep programs equipping teachers for their futures in the classroom? A recent study by NCTQ attempts to answer this question.
The report ranked 134 schools (69 percent public and 41 percent private) according to these standards of quality: whether student teaching lasts at least 10 weeks; whether the teacher preparation program selects the cooperating teacher (the primary classroom teacher); whether cooperating teachers have at least three years of experience; and whether they have the capacity to mentor an adult and provide feedback and support. To rate schools, NCTQ collected numerous documents, including those that outline the selection process of cooperating teachers; surveyed principals from elementary schools who participated in the student teaching experience; and conducted several site visits.
The findings are shocking, and shed light on many ways in which student teaching experiences are inadequate. They include:
- School districts often do not have enough highly qualified cooperative teachers to keep up with the supply of student teachers. NCTQ estimates that a school of 25 teachers only yields on average one qualified and willing cooperating teacher.
- Too many elements of student teaching programs are left to chance. While a number of programs observe NCTQ’s standards, only 75 percent require that student teachers share all of the cooperating teacher’s responsibilities, and only 68 percent require that student teachers be present on the first day of school.
- Institutions lack rigorous criteria for selecting cooperating teachers. Only 28 percent of institutions require their cooperating teachers to be effective, and more often than not rely on a good faith basis for screening cooperating teachers.
- Majority of institutions reviewed received a poor rating. Twenty-five institutions received the lowest rating of poor, while another 49 percent were ranked as having weak student teacher programs. Only 7 percent (10 schools) received the highest rating of model program. Schools taking top honors include Florida Gulf Coast University, Furman University, and Oklahoma State University.
NCTQ only looked at two education schools in Ohio, and the results are worrisome. Ohio University received a “poor” rating (the lowest rating), and Youngstown State University was rated as “weak” (the second lowest rating). Ohio should take note of these findings and strive to improve its student teaching programs. It should be noted that while the Buckeye State has room to improve it should be applauded for being one of only a small number of states that considers student teaching a full-time commitment of 12 semester hours.
Student Teaching in America
Julie Greenberg, Laura Pomerance, and Kate Walsh
National Council on Teacher Quality
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