September 26, 2013
Dear Council Members,
One very important reason that members come together to form a professional community is to create shared agreements or understandings about how to define and support "quality" in professional practice. This has long been a central concern of the National Council of Teachers of English, as documents from nearly a century ago testify.
The challenge of defining quality in teacher preparation programs is an especially complex task. Faculty experience, curricula, course materials, and clinical experiences all play a role. Increasingly, programs are taking a comprehensive look at all factors that may influence their ability to prepare the next generation of educators for the challenges and opportunities they will face. For decades, NCTE has joined forces with other professional societies through alliances like NCATE, TEAC, and the newly formed Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) to develop balanced, rigorous peer review standards for teacher preparation programs. The journey has often been an onerous one since it requires us, collectively, to point out gaps and weaknesses in programs that are frequently under-resourced or committed to serving communities that struggle to provide even the bare minimum of support for effective teaching and learning.
Given the seriousness of the task, it is no surprise that when summary assessments emerge that condemn preparation programs on the basis of a very thin veneer of evidence, well-informed members of our professional community step forward to cry "foul." That happened this summer in the wake of the release of the NCTQ report on teacher education programs. In short order, letters from Louann Reid, Chair of NCTE's Conference on English Education, and Ken Goodman and members of the Reading Hall of Fame emerged to flag basic flaws in the methodology of the report and its destructive findings.
While few members will find much to celebrate in the report itself, it is reassuring that leaders from our professional community who have committed their careers to careful and conscientious preparation of new teachers stepped forward when we needed them. We have the privilege of drawing on the scholarship and goodwill of colleagues who refuse to let the important work of literacy education become obscured or overrun by sloppy scholarship.
I am grateful to belong to this community of professionals dedicated to preparing tomorrow's teachers by defining and refining knowledge and skills responsive to ever more complex demands and by thoughtfully safeguarding the ethical standards of our profession. If you've had an opportunity to read the report, join the discussion here. Thank you.
Sandy Hayes, NCTE President