January 29, 2015
Scott Ridley, dean of the College of Education at Texas Tech University, is one of the early members behind Deans for Impact, a newly launched organization dedicated to reforming teacher preparation programs in the United States.
Ridley, who is the only dean from a Big 12 university in the organization and one of three from Texas, said now is the time for such a movement, given recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education showing two-thirds of new teachers don't feel like their institution adequately prepared them to be in the classroom and about half of teachers leave the field within five years.
“The big picture is it's a time when colleges of education are being asked to do a better job, and the reaction from most is whining and giving reasons why that can't happen,” Ridley said. “I credit the faculty in our college and the support of central administration for putting our college in a national leadership role. People are working very hard.”
Deans for Impact founder Benjamin Riley said the mission is to integrate the “science of learning” into teacher preparation programs, so new teachers enter the classroom with the knowledge they need to be effective teachers. As individual institutions make these reforms they will provide the measurements needed to compare programs.
Texas Tech is already a reform leader. The teacher preparation program, known as TechTeach, gives teacher candidates a year of student teaching and requires they pass certification tests prior to entering the classroom. The university also collects data, including students' test scores and attitudes about their teacher, from its partner schools to measure teacher candidates' effectiveness.
Others have noticed TechTeach's success. Officials from Massachusetts' Department of Education invited Ridley, Department of Teacher Education chairman Doug Hamman and TechTeach's lead professional development facilitator, Katie Button, to work with the colleges of education in their state. Massachusetts has the highest-ranked public education system in the United States.
“At both the local and the national level, what our teacher education faculty members are doing is attracting attention,” Ridley said.
Deans for Impact is facing some pushback, he said. University teacher education has had little to no accountability in how they prepare their teacher candidates, and these reforms will raise that level of accountability. Additionally, Deans for Impact promotes using K-12 students' test scores to measure teachers' effectiveness. This doesn't mean promoting or firing teachers based only on test scores, Ridley said. Rather, it is one way among many of calculating the teacher's impact on K-12 student learning.
“It looks at the teacher's contribution to children's growth from one year to the next,” Ridley said. “We're willing to be held accountable to that.”
To read the letter Deans for Impact sent to the Department of Education explaining its goals, click here.
The College of Education at Texas Tech University offers a full range of programs, including eight doctoral degrees, 12 master's degrees and two bachelor's degrees with numerous specializations leading to careers in public or private education as teachers, professors, administrators, counselors and diagnosticians.
Programs in the college are housed in two departments. The Department of Curriculum and Instruction offers undergraduate programs leading to initial teaching certificates and graduate programs in bilingual education, curriculum and instruction, elementary education, language literacy and secondary education.
The Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership offers graduate programs in counselor education, educational leadership, educational psychology, higher education, instructional technology and special education.