Op-Ed: We Must Do More to Prepare Our New Teachers for the Classroom


Americans regularly tell pollsters that the medical profession is the one they admire most. But just a century ago, the medical profession wasn’t held in such high regard. One of the main reasons was the uneven quality of medical training.

While there were some world-class medical schools, far too many had low or non-existent admissions standards, didn’t ensure their students understood the science behind medicine, or didn’t provide opportunities for hands-on clinical practice. A doctor could get a license without ever having worked on a body or learned anything about anatomy.

All that changed in 1910 with the publication of the Flexner Report, named after its author, Abraham Flexner, a former school principal. He traveled to all 155 medical schools then in operation and reported on what was working and what wasn’t.

The report was a bombshell, finding only one high-performing medical school in the country (Johns Hopkins), but spurring successful efforts across the country to make sure that all medical schools met high standards. The result: a training system that produces doctors second to none in the world.

The Flexner Report is the inspiration for the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Teacher Prep Review, published in partnership with U.S. News & World Report on June 18. The Review spotlights what’s working well in the more than 1,100 colleges and universities approved to prepare teachers and encourage more programs to follow their lead.

But like Flexner before us, we also call out programs that need to seriously up their game for the good of their graduates and the students they will teach.

There’s another parallel between the Flexner Report and the Teacher Prep Review. Flexner issued his report on the heels of a veritable revolution in medicine, the development of the germ theory of disease, which made it imperative that doctors be well-versed in scientific research.

Our Review is coming out just as 45 states and the District of Columbia are implementing the Common Core State Standards. These standards—which describe what pre-K through high school students need to know to be college and career-ready in our increasingly globalized world—are much more rigorous than the educational standards most states had on the books before.

We’re going to be expecting more of our students, which means that new teachers will need even better training.

Teaching is a tough job. Far too many new teachers suffer burnout and leave after a few years in the classroom. But if teacher preparation programs routinely give new teachers the tools they need to be classroom ready from the start, we can turn this situation around. And if programs are choosier about who they let in and insist that candidates go through a rigorous course of study, they will confer even greater prestige in a profession in which our nation’s children and future depend.

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