WestSouthwest: Bridge Magazine on teacher preparation

Nov 12, 2013

Student teachers in Haslett
Credit Ron French, Bridge Magazine

The online news service of the Center for Michigan examines how teachers are prepared for the classroom in Michigan

Senior writer Ron French tells WMUK's Gordon Evans that the current system is outdated, and needs reform. He says the system was designed a century ago for women to teach for a few years until they got married. 

But the series does find that many teachers are not in the classroom for very long. French says 40% of teachers leave the profession within four years, meaning they spend fewer years in the classroom than they did in college learning how to be a teacher. French says teachers aren't prepared for the classroom, and there isn't a good way of mentoring young teachers. He says there are teachers to fill those slots, but not enough are staying in the profession long enough to reach their full potential as educators. 

French says more young teachers end up teaching in the poorest school districts. He says that means that students who need the most help are being taught by inexperienced teachers. 

But finding the best teachers is difficult, in part because of the lack of quality data about what programs are producing quality teachers. French says there are many rating systems but "they're all over the board." He says the state is making some changes in that area that will be implemented soon. But French says there are many variables, including teachers who move out of state after graduating from colleges and universities in Michigan. 

Godwin Heights has a rigorous program for finding and keeping good teachers. But French says it would be tough to take Godwin Heights' model statewide. He says students in that district come from lower-income families, many of them first generation Americans. French says the staff at Godwin Heights has put extra emphasis on high quality teachers to serve students who otherwise may not succeed in school.

French says Michigan and other states are closely examining teacher preparation programs and evaluation to make improvements.

"This is a hot topic in Lansing, I think you are going to see some changes here in the next year or two."