To the Editor:
This letter is in response to the article “White House Revives Rules Putting Teacher Preparation on Hot Seat”. The National Council on Teacher Quality’s 2013 State Teacher Policy Yearbook showed that Louisiana had improved in every area related to teacher evaluation. However, its grade decreased in the area of delivering well-prepared teachers. While Louisiana may be second in the country for teacher evaluations, it is third from last in student performance based on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores.
Is it a coincidence that, at the same time our state’s student-performance scores are among the lowest, so is our production of well-prepared teachers? Are we focusing on the wrong drivers?
More important than good testing is good teaching. Rather than getting better at evaluating teachers, Louisiana needs to get better at producing and preparing good teachers.
In her book The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, Amanda Ripley found that in Finland, a top-ranked country on the Program for International Student Assessment, all teacher education schools were selective, taking only the best of the best. Teachers also received top-notch education and training.
I’m sure that if you talk to teachers, most of them won’t say that they choose to be ineffective. When teachers are adequately prepared, there’s less need to improve evaluation strategies. One concern of the Common Core State Standards is that kids will be penalized for not receiving the foundational knowledge and skills necessary to successfully transition to more-rigorous standards. The same is true for teachers.
If we are to be truly successful at reforming education, using testing and performance evaluations to drive and determine success is not the only answer. The answer, in part, is to arm teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills to get off on the right foot.
Public Engagement Director
Center for Development and Learning
A version of this article appeared in the July 10, 2014 edition of Education Week as Poor Preparation of Teachers Leads to Poor Student Performance