Diane Ravitch outlines the ever changing reform agenda in her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. What is new is that there appears to be more unity among the educational community in defining what "forward progress" looks like.
Historically, the field of education has been highly vulnerable to political and private sector ideology. The tendency has been to react, defend and then adopt the latest idea. The simple truth is education, like many occupations, is meant to be in a state of continual improvement so that it is relevant to society-its technology, its knowledge and its need.
Of course, that means teacher preparation programs must constantly transform their approaches. Certainly, this transformation is complex and must be the work of many-P12 schools, colleges of education, community partners and other stakeholders. There are no quick "fixes" that demonstrate sustainability. The evaluation of teacher preparation programs, similar to true measures of student success, should be assessed by multiple performance indicators rather than singular datum that oversimplifies the complex nature of learning and teaching.
Oklahoma education leaders are already working collaboratively to advance teacher candidates' ability to teach in a manner that students learn. Oklahoma education leadres are committed to high standards for acceptance into teacher preparation programs, and they are currently using a variety of assessments to measure candidate quality throughout programs. They are also committed to developing strong, embedded clinical experiences.
Teacher preparation institutions through the State of Oklahoma have worked with the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation (OCTP) on the following initiatives.
- Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA). The TPA “is subject-specific, performance based assessment for pre-service teacher candidates, centered on student learning” (AACTE, Questions and Answer Handout. Six Oklahoma institutions volunteered to pilot this national assessment in spring, 2012: Southern Nazarene University, Oral Roberts University, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma University, East Central University, and the University of Central Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma Alliance for Clinically-Based Teacher Preparation. OCTP, teacher preparation colleges and P12 schools have collaborated to develop a model “…that requires deep P12 partnership and centers university coursework on experiences in the P12 setting” (OCTP, Sept. 2011 meeting handout). Cameron University, The University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma City University, The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and Northeastern State University participated in this initiative during the first year. Additionally, other institutions have hosted meetings to strengthen their alliance with local P12 schools.
- Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) Teaching Standards. OCTP and teacher preparation institutions adopted these revised standards that “emphasized student achievement, diverse learners and literacy skills” (OCTP Sept. 2011 Meeting Handout).
- Survey of Novice Teachers. OCTP conducted a survey “designed to provide valuable information on the preparedness of first year teachers and their administrators. Plans include expansion of the survey to include all teachers in their first three years in the classroom” (OCTP Sept. 2011 Meeting Handout).
- Teacher Preparation Report Card. Education policy makers are actively working on a report card that “will evaluate all teacher preparation pathways (both university and alternative) based on multiple accountability measures, such as certification test data, teacher/employer surveys, P12 student achievement, and teacher performance measures” (OCTP Sept. 2011 Meeting Handout). Colleges that prepare teachers are receptive to using data collected through valid and reliable methods to inform continual improvement, yet a sophisticated system for collecting some components of these data has yet to be developed.
There are many positive changes resulting from extensive collaborative efforts across the State. The goal of each of the initiatives is to advance educator preparation programs in order to graduate teachers who can, and will, continue to impact student learning positively. The future for Oklahoma P12 students look bright as long as stakeholders work together to achieve the unified goal of increased student learning.