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
July 2011

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