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Teacher preparation needs reform too

WEST Virginia's programs to prepare elementary and secondary school teachers got mixed reviews last week in a report from a national group on teacher quality.

The good news, West Virginia does better than many states in preparing elementary teachers in scientifically based reading instruction, better at providing feedback to teacher candidates on classroom management strategies and better in providing teacher candidates with adequate content preparation.

The bad news, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality, is that all states need significant improvement in teacher preparation.

"The problem is worse than we thought," said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News & World Report, publisher of the study.

"The data show that the academic caliber of many incoming students is quite low, and what they are taught often has little relevance to what they need to succeed in the classroom."

The national report, which includes details on each state, offers some timely free advice to a state group looking to improve teacher quality.

The High Quality Education Committee has been discussing issues related to educator quality since the Legislature passed a watered-down version of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education reform package in 2013.

That group is due to present its list of recommendations to the Board of Education in December, with the board forwarding its recommendations to the governor by the end of the year.

The council looked at teacher preparation programs at 13 institutions in West Virginia

It found that none of them restrict admissions to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent nationwide. It's counterintuitive, but the council says that increasing "the rigor and therefore the prestige of teacher preparation, the profession will attract more talent, including talented minorities."

The Council also suggested that states like West Virginia lower tuition for aspiring teachers in high need areas like special education and science, technology, engineering and math fields.

As the state works to improve its education system while facing a large segment of current teachers approaching retirement, preparing teachers to teach 21st century skills is increasingly important.

Let's hope the High Quality Education Committee seriously considers the council's findings and drafts improvements for a stronger education reform package for the next legislative session.


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