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NCATE Announces Recommendations for transforming Teacher Education through Clinical Practice



Prepared by:
Ellen Fern (

November 18, 2010

On Tuesday, November 16 the Blue-Ribbon Panel composed of education experts commissioned by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) released a report at the National Press Club calling for teacher education programs to be “turned upside down” by revamping programs to place clinical practice at the center of teacher preparation. The report, Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice: A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers, also places a great deal of emphasis on the development of partnerships with school districts in which teacher education becomes a shared responsibility between P-12 schools and higher education. In addition, eight states— California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee— have already agreed to serve as pilot sites to implement the panel’s recommendation.

• Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
• James Cibulka, President, NCATE
• Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor, State University of New York, Panel Co-Chair
• Dwight Jones, Commissioner of Education, State of Colorado, Panel Co-Chair

• Peter McWalters, Program Director, Council of Chief State School Officers
• Donna Wiseman, Dean, College of Education, University of Maryland and Chair-Elect, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
• Jesse Solomon, Executive Director, Boston Teacher Residency
• Kathy Wiebke, National Board Certified Teacher, Executive Director, K-12 Center, Northern Arizona University
• Rebecca Pringle, Secretary-Treasurer, National Education Association
• Christopher Steinhauser, Superintendent, Long Beach Unified School District
• Arthur Levine, President, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
• Frederick Hess, Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute

James Cibulka
James Cibulka opened the event by noting the historic nature of the report which represents a consensus document from a diverse group of education stakeholders all in agreement that a dramatic transformation in the preparation of teachers is necessary. In addition, Cibulka noted the concurrence among the expert panel that teacher preparation must be tied to improved student learning. He added that there is a gap currently between how educators are prepared and what students actually need in the classroom. The student population is more diverse, has greater learning needs, is more tech savvy than ever before, and course work on childhood development and teaching students with disabilities and English language learners is not translating into actual classroom practice. “The nation needs a system of high-performing preparation programs—not a cottage industry of path breaking initiatives,” Cibulka said. Lastly, it was announced that NCATE and Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) will no longer be two separate organizations. Wanting to “speak with one voice for quality teacher preparation,” a new unified accrediting body, the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), will be formed.

Nancy Zimpher and Dwight Jones
The Panel Co-Chairs provided an overview of the report’s recommendations. Nancy Zimpher began by recognizing that “teachers are the most important in-school factor in student success” but “seismic changes” are necessary in the training of teachers. Noting that teacher education must shift to programs that are fully grounded in clinical practice and interwoven with academic content and professional courses (similar to the medical education model), Zimpher stated, “we must move to multiple solutions” in our approach. In addition, teacher education programs must work in close partnership with school districts to redesign teacher preparation to better serve prospective teachers and the students they teach. Partnership, similar to the Long Beach Unified School District model, should include shared decision making and oversight on candidate selection and completion by school districts and teacher education programs bringing accountability closer to the classroom, based “largely on evidence of candidates’ effective performance and their impact on student learning.” Zimpher stressed that “preparation and accountability must be aligned.”

Dwight Jones summarized the Panel’s ten identified design principles for clinically-based programs and emphasized that all sectors—state higher education leadership, state P-12 leadership, teacher union leadership, school district leadership, school leadership, faculty and even federal policy makers—need to be involved in the redesigned model. Specifically, this includes more rigorous accountability to P-12 student learning along with a more rigorous program accreditation process. Additionally, the candidate selection and placement process must be strengthened and expanded to include more diverse cohorts of students along with consideration of academic achievement and “key attributes that lead to effective teachers.” Prospective teachers must have the opportunity to teach in hard-to-staff schools along with access to effective mentors, coaches and clinical faculty. It is also time to fundamentally redesign the curriculum of teacher preparation programs along with “significant changes” in the reward structure and staffing models of P-12 schools. New state policies must be drafted to support partnerships between higher education and the P-12 system and “any inhibiting legal or regulatory barriers” should be removed. Lastly, expanding the knowledge base to identify what works and support continuous improvement should be developed. Jones noted that currently there is not a large research base on what makes clinical preparation effective, and the report “urges the federal and state government and philanthropy to invest in new research to support the development…of new models to help determine which are the most effective.” Making these changes, the report says, will go a long way toward improving how the nation delivers, monitors, evaluates, oversees, and staffs preparation to incubate a whole new form of teacher education.”

Secretary Arne Duncan
Recalling a speech delivered a year ago at Columbia University’s Teacher College on reforming teacher education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proclaimed that university-based teacher preparation programs needed “revolutionary change, not evolutionary tinkering.” A year later, Duncan said he was extremely pleased with the “extraordinary work of the Blue Ribbon Panel” and stated, “Without getting into the specific recommendations of your report, I love its direction.” Agreeing that the new report marks “the most sweeping recommendations for reforming the accreditation of teacher preparation programs in the more than century-long history of our nation's education schools,” Duncan strongly endorsed the recommendations found in the report and encouraged all the stakeholders to “persist in your efforts, and don’t lose faith.” Reiterating the conclusion found in a recently-released McKinsey report on the symbiotic relationship between high quality teachers and a high quality education system, the Secretary also highlighted that in the next five years, the nation will lose one-third of its veteran teachers to retirement and attrition. As a result, the Department of Education has launched a comprehensive public education campaign called,, to recruit a new, diverse and highly-qualified teacher workforce which will include more teachers of color and individuals who can fill critical subject areas such as openings in science and math. Duncan also applauded the efforts of many states, such as Louisiana, that have made programmatic improvements using data, new performance measures and innovative agreements with teacher unions.

Each of the panel discussants, representing a variety of perspectives, had the opportunity to speak in favor of the report’s recommendations. Peter McWalters highlighted the need for “unconditional state leadership and support” to successfully implement the recommended practice changes. A number of other participants emphasized the laser-like focus on collaboration and partnership at all levels as a key factor, in addition to a shift in focus to a better and more comprehensive clinical practice. Fredrick Hess was also asked to share an “opposing” view to the findings of the report. While applauding the hard work of the Blue Ribbon Panel and admiring the desire to truly transform teacher education for the 21st century, Hess noted five major concerns he recommended the Panel continue to wrestle. This included: 1) no acknowledgement of the new ways to deliver instruction (i.e., distance learning and other uses of technology) and instead solely relying on a Teacher Residency model; 2) no mention the role technology plays as an effective delivery mechanism; 3) the assumption that the essential role of institutions of higher learning is the only way to train teachers; 4) the budgetary impact to implement these changes; and 5) the reality of implementation and scaling-up to meet the demand for increased mentors, master teachers and clinical supervisors.

Audience members also had an opportunity to ask questions of the discussants. There was further conversation about the cost implications to states and school districts which are and will continue to face ongoing budget cuts. Nancy Zimpher noted that the cost of the “revolving door of teachers leaving the profession” was also enormous and if more teachers stayed in the profession, cost savings could be achieved. James Cibulka added that NCATE would be “costing out” the report’s recommendations and would have more to add on this topic at a later date. Another audience member asked about the difficulty of having to retrain academic faculty members to work more in a clinical setting. Zimpher and Donna Wiseman agreed, suggesting that incentives would be necessary along with changing how campuses define “clinicians” in order to make the position “legitimate” and “rewarded”.

To watch a video of the Blue Ribbon Panel briefing and to read more about the report and supporting statements go to:

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