By Sarah Plummer
The National Council on Teacher Quality has released its 2012 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, a report that gives West Virginia a grade of “C minus” for its teacher preparation policies last year.
The report, which focuses on state laws, rules and regulations that affect and shape teacher preparation also gives all 50 states and the District of Columbia an average of “D plus.”
The State Teacher Policy Yearbook provides a roadmap for policymakers on how to ensure teacher effectiveness and comes on the heels of the governor’s Education Efficiency Audit, which criticized West Virginia as having one of the most centralized and state regulated departments of education in the country.
According to the National Council on Teacher Quality report, West Virginia teacher preparation policies need to devote critical attention to raising admission requirements to ensure that teacher preparation programs admit candidates with strong academic records, closing loopholes that allow some secondary science and social studies teachers to teach subjects in which they may lack sufficient content knowledge, increasing standards for special education teachers to ensure that they are prepared to teach grade-level content, and holding teacher preparation programs accountable for the performance of their graduates.
“With so much attention on the issue of teacher effectiveness, the relative lack of attention to how candidates for teaching are prepared for the job in the first place is puzzling,” said National Council Teacher Quality president Kate Walsh.
“The Yearbook provides a roadmap for policymakers on how to get teacher effectiveness right from the start — by setting higher expectations for what teachers need to know and are able to do before they are licensed to become teachers.
“Our teachers deserve the very best preparation so that they can step into the classroom and help our students prepare to be the most successful in the world.”
According to the council, 100 percent of undergraduate teacher preparation programs in West Virginia are insufficiently selective, failing to ensure that candidates come from the top half of the college-going population.
The report also identifies ways that West Virginia could improve its Transition to Teaching alternate route to certification.
Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said the ratings reveal the state and nation’s difficulty in getting quality educators into the classroom, a problem that is compounded by low pay.
“So many people blame the ills of society on teachers, but with teacher salaries as low as they are, it is difficulty to entice people into the profession,” he said.
West Virginia ranks 48th in the nation in teacher pay.
“This report talks about wanting to raise admission standards and teacher preparation programs, enforcing our believes that Teach For America and those types of programs only lesson standards,” he said. “We should continue to work to ensure we have high quality teachers in front of all our kids.”
Like many educators, Lee anticipates the 2013 legislative session to focus on education reform.
“Many people are going to look into doing the current buzz work in reform, but we need to look at reform that will really improve students achievement. If we are serious about education reform, we need to listen to teachers, service professionals and education experts as well as invest the dollars necessary to make improvements and factor in student and parent accountability,” he added.
The 2012 State Teacher Policy Yearbook is available online at www.nctq.org/stpy.