Study On Preservice Teacher Preparation

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John Dewey's writings emphasize the value of experience in education. The theory of experience asks does an intrinsic value occur through action (Darling-Hammond & Berry, 2006). From the middle of the 19th century, pedagogical leaders have advocated learning by doing. The purpose of the student teaching assignment is "focused on providing examples of best practices and pairing students with teachers who are not only excellent teachers, but also excellent role models willing to engage in reflective practice with preservice teachers" (Hixon& Hyo-Jeong, 2009, p. 294).

Darling-Hammond (2007) reported the methods employed during preservice teacher education programs affect the student teachers ability to handle the daily challenges they will meet. Their ability to cope with these challenges can be the determining factor of why some teachers are successful. Inadequate preparation affects new teachers' success or failure, effectiveness and decisions to leave the profession (Strands, 2006). A survey of former teachers in Florida found 43 percent of first-year teachers felt they were minimally prepared to manage their classrooms (Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, 2000). A national survey of public school teachers with less than five years' experience found 62 percent felt their preparation programs did a fair or poor job of preparing them to deal with the varied facets of teaching (Public Agenda, 2000).

Good teachers need content knowledge, the ability to manage a classroom, and design lessons, which promote learning for a diverse group of students (Darling-Hammond, 2007). Teachers who completed 4 and 5 year teacher education programs along with those who received other specific training and student teaching experiences were one-half to two-thirds more likely to stay in the teaching profession (Barnes, Crowe, & Schaefer, 2007; Darling-Hammond, 2003). According to the 2007, NCES report, 29 percent of new teachers who did not have any student teaching assignments left the profession within 5 years compared to 15 % of new teachers who completed a student teacher assignment (Darling-Hammond 2003). New teachers are often overwhelmed and do not feel prepared to deal with all the requirements of the job. Anhorn's (2008) research, discussed how the student teacher assignment is a culminating experience where pedagogical theory, classroom management, and lesson planning become reality.

Partnerships are important to the success of new teachers. "The university supervisor and the cooperating teacher must work together to provide a quality student teaching experience. Student teachers need to be adequately prepared to meet obligations of becoming a true professional" (Ediger, 2009, p.251). A shared approach between pre-service education programs, districts, and schools will contribute to solving the nationwide teacher retention problem (Strand, 2006). Research shows an effective strong partnership between all preservice institutions and school districts enhance the development of a beginning teacher's confidence (Liston, Whitcomb, and Borko, 2006). Beginning teachers will always experience challenges as they transition to the classroom (Sadker et al., 2007). The responsibility to support this transition belongs to universities and alternative education programs (Strand, 2006). Therefore, preservice education institutions, alternative programs and school districts, must find ways to provide ongoing and meaningful professional development which result in the retention of high quality teachers.

Pre-service teacher education programs have the challenge to prepare beginning teachers to be proficient in the classroom (Jung, 2007). The goal is to expose student teachers to theories on pedagogy, curriculum and instruction, critical thinking strategies, and classroom management (Darling-Hammond, 2007; Ediger, 2009). The student teaching experience provides student teachers a platform to put their knowledge to practice (Jung, 2007). However new teachers do not feel prepared to handle special education students or the time consuming administrative and legal responsibilities associated with all special programs (Anhorn, 2008). New teachers reported they lacked knowledge about preparing and documenting for special education students. Most had never attended an actual Independent Education Program meeting until their first year teaching (Sprague & Pennell, 2000; as cited by Anhorn, 2008). Beginning teachers often do not know much about the huge range of disabilities or the impact students with disabilities might have on the classroom. Combine this with providing specialized curriculum for gifted students and English language learners beginning teachers often feel overwhelmed and unsure on how to meet their student's educational needs (deBettencourt and Howard (2004).

Another common complaint made by new teachers is the lack of training in educational technology received during their preservice educational experience (Hixon & Hyo-Jeong, 2009). Research revealed pre-service education does not adequately prepare new teachers on technology, which is widely used in schools, such as Smart Boards, United Streaming, or Pinnacle (Anhorn, 2008). Nor are student teachers exposed to the benefits of integrating technology into their lessons plans effectively. In the 2006, Principals' Research Review researchers reported several states are using technology to improve communication between mentors and mentees. In Alaska, the program administrators have found technology helps deter the isolation new teachers often feel. Alaskan mentors have considerable distance between sites and the weather makes traveling difficult for most of the school year. Their teacher mentor project utilizes technology as a way to shrink the distance between mentors and new teachers. The mentors meet face to face with the new teacher once a month and use email, videoconferencing, and online learning communities to communicate daily or weekly. Participants reported the ability to stay in touch despite the distance, which allowed the mentor and mentee to reflect about the experience (Principals' Research Review, 2006).

During the 90's researchers found the need for qualified teachers in the United States had increased (Hussar, 1999, as cited by Wilcox & Samaras, 2009). University teacher education programs found it difficult to balance the increased need for teachers' without compromising their program standards (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2004; Glazerman, Seif, & Pedersen, 2008; Ingersoll & Kralik, 2004). The increased turnover rate of experienced veteran teachers has also contributed to the rise of teacher candidates enrolling in alternative teacher education programs (Walsh & Jacobs, 2007). The demand for teachers in high need areas of math, science, and special education had also increased. The answer was to create fast-track certification opportunities, known as alternative certification programs. (NCEI, 2005; Thomas, Friedman-Nimz, Mahlios, & O'Brien, 2005). Alternative teaching programs exist across the United States (National Center for Education Information, 2007; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007) and approximately 30 % of the certified teachers matriculate through alternative programs (Whitehurst, 2007).

The combined research on whether traditional or alternative teaching certification is better for teachers and students is inconclusive. In a study on an alternative teaching certification program deBettencourt and Howard (2004), surveyed 59 alternatively certified special education teachers. The authors found alternatively certified teachers' effectiveness increase during their first year in a classroom. Gerson, 2002, found no difference in retention or attrition rates between teachers who attended a traditional education program or an alternative program. Researchers, Walsh & Jacobs (2007), reported alternative teacher programs reduce teacher shortages and raise teacher quality. In addition, research indicated mentors had a positive influence on the success of alternative certified teachers (Simmons, 2005).

In 2002, Darling-Hammond conducted an analysis of 2,956 surveys by New York City teachers with less than four years of teaching experience. The preservice educational backgrounds of the teachers surveyed were from both traditional and alternative teaching settings. The researcher administered a survey with 39 items and participants rated their certification programs ability to promote student learning, teach higher order thinking, understand learners, and use technology. These results contradicted previous findings. According to Darling-Hammond (2002), traditional certified teachers expressed being better prepared and displayed higher levels of efficacy and effectiveness.

New teachers see student teaching as the capstone of their teacher education experience and the path for ultimately becoming a teacher (Ediger, M. 2009). Because of the value placed on field experiences by first-year teachers, teacher preparation programs need to provide realistic experiences, to include working with students with special needs, working with parents, classroom management, and integrating technology into the lesson plans (Darling-Hammond, 2007; Goodlad, 2004). Student teachers would also benefit from working with a diverse student groups, inclusion settings, and administrative and legal requirements (Anhorn, 2008).

Pre-service training in cultural diversity

The 21st century has brought numerous challenges to the teaching profession. Federal laws such as "No Child Left Behind" (Educational Research Association, 2001) require educators to focus on assessment and accountability. In the teachers efforts to be fair to all students the awareness to cultural differences is diminishing. Pre-Service teachers' education in diversity is not meeting the needs of this millennium. There is a need for the exploration of discrimination, prejudice, bias, diversity, and culture in pre-service teacher education programs.

Cushner (2007) pointed out that although many colleges of education provide a curriculum that includes multiculturalism and foreign field-based training the expected outcome is weak. He suggested teachers would benefit from a program that lasts a minimum of a semester, allowing them to live and work in diverse locations. The impact of studying and teaching in foreign countries contributes to the personal and professional success of educators. Cushner explained that when individuals overcome and succeed through the challenges of being in a foreign environment their self-awareness increases. Studying abroad also increases a person's reticence to diversity. Student teachers receive exposure to a new teaching philosophy and techniques that leads to further serf-confidence. The confidence, increased awareness, and cultural empathy that teachers gain invoke an awareness of multiculturalism and the need to attend to individual differences of their students. The challenge for educators is to be creative when working with students. It is through the educator's creativity and response to classroom diversity that overall self-esteem and academic success of today's diverse classrooms will be evident (Cushner, 2007).

Gary Howard (1999) stated, "We can't teach what we don't know" (p. ___). This statement supports the premise that during pedagogical training exposure and knowledge of the cultural background of students is critical. Howard's research showed that when a culturally responsive, congruent, compatible, and relevant education system is available the students' academic achievements improve. Teachers have the responsibility to understand and to gain knowledge of the students' culture. They need to be aware of what cultural behaviors to expect and to accept. In order for beginning teachers to be effective and successful, institutions need diversity-embedded curriculum with institution wide support (Garmon, 2004). The pre-service teacher needs opportunities to develop their awareness and sensitivity by interacting with students from diverse backgrounds.

The NCLB "What Works" Web site states, "The Challenge: Ineffective teaching practices and unproven education theories are among the chief reasons children fall behind and teachers get frustrated (U.S. Department of Education, 2003; as cited by Jung, W., 2007). Research has verified student achievement relies on the quality of the classroom teacher (NCTAF, 1996; Lewis, 2004). Goodlad (2004) agrees:

We find raising the scores on mandated tests, ending "social promotions," offering vouchers, and creating charter schools on the front burners of politically driven school reform. None of these-or even more promising alternatives-will go anywhere without competent, caring, qualified teachers. . . . If teaching our young in schools became a lifelong professional career-adequately rewarded and supported, with decision-making authority commensurate with responsibility-teacher shortages would fade away. (p. 47-48)

Goodlad supports the collaboration between school districts and universities with education departments. The goal is for schools of education to help teachers learn how to work with all students and to help students meet the high standards of state assessments.

Evidence has shown teacher turnover is a significant problem affecting school performance and student achievement (Levy, Fields & Jablonski, 2006; Portner, 2005; Ingersoll, 2001). Teacher turnover can have a negative effect on students in varying ways; a teacher with less experience and is less effective will likely replace a veteran teacher; a deep knowledge of the students and community leaves with them (ATPE, 2008). NCTAF (2007) study revealed investing in teacher retention would allow more funding to be available for district use. Schools considered at risk do not spend the necessary money needed to hire, recruit, or retain highly qualified teachers Southeast Center for Teaching Quality (SECTQ) used employment and teacher turnover data for 270,000 teachers in over 7,000 schools across five states. SECTQ found the highest rate of teacher turnover occurred in schools where 75% or more of the student body is eligible to receive free or reduced priced meals (SEQTQ, 2003). Teacher turnover rate is higher at low performing schools at 5.6% above the average rate.

Teacher quality may be the most important school related factor affecting student learning. Leithwood, Seashore, Louis, Anderson, Wahlstrom, 2004; Wynn et al, (2007) recommended if schools want to improve student achievement they must retain a "critical mass of high quality teachers" (p.226). They further suggested teacher satisfaction with working conditions and principal leadership lead to higher retention rates. A study conducted by Hanushek (2004) showed there is a clear link between teacher turnover and student achievement. The study included fourth through eighth grade teachers in Texas and found teaching lower achieving students is a significant factor in deciding to leave teaching in public schools. Rivkin (2005) reported there is a strong correlation between student achievement and teacher turnover (Rivkin, 2005). The 2008, Study on Teacher Quality and School Improvement in Texas Schools (Fuller & Carpenter, 2008) reported teachers with five years of teaching experience had 60.5% of the students pass from the lowest performing group and 50.3 % of the students passed were from the highest performing group.

Research is clear that what a teacher does in the classroom is a far greater predictor of student success than anything else, and students who consistently get effective teachers benefit exponentially (Gordon, Kane, & Staiger, 2006). Researchers have even found that effective teachers have such a significant impact on a student's ability to learn that teaching can offset learning challenges such as low-income levels and achievement gaps (Rivkin et al. 2002; Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2007). Teacher competency improves with experience during the early years of a teacher's career. As long as students are exposed to the curriculum by inexperienced teachers the achievement gap will continually grow (McCaffrey, Koretz, Lockwood & Hamilton, 2003; Rivkin et al., 2005). High turnover schools cost more to operate in labor and money spent hiring and training new teachers. Retaining more teachers allows more money to improve teacher quality and student achievement. School districts need to improve their ability to identify, aggregate, and analyze which teachers are leaving. The data collected will show districts how to invest in teacher retention in order to reduce turnover costs (McCaffrey et al, 2003).

Campus leadership, climate, and collegiality (Not finished)

During a critical accountability and testing era in education, school boards, school districts, and campus administrators are experiencing additional stress (Heller, 2004). The reasons that teachers leave the classroom fall into controllable and uncontrollable reasons (Anhorn, 2008). General areas seen as uncontrollable are; economics, certification status, class loads, low student motivation, better salaries, personal issues, retirement, or better jobs. General areas seen as controllable are; job assignments, job design, class loads, job stress, paperwork, lack of empowerment, school climate, lack of collegial and principal support, lack of staff development, low student motivation, discipline problems, behavior issues, and lack of student progress. Administrative support and leadership, student behavior and school atmosphere are working conditions associated with teacher satisfaction. Trained and supportive principals, opportunities to learn and improve skills, and strong collegial environments matter most to teachers (Edvantia, 2007).

Effective schools and improved student achievement rely on administrative leadership that inspires teachers (Levin, 2008). The same environmental factors that enable students to learn will also allow teachers and principals to learn, grow, and teach (Sargent, 2003). The lack of a supportive environment hinders student achievement and teacher job satisfaction. Teachers report that the lack of support that they received from their schools was in the form of minimal guidance and lack of encouragement (Sargent, 2003). According to Edvantia (2007), findings indicate socializing into an ineffective school will spread ineffective practices. "At schools where principals were 'all about the kids', teachers' demonstrated loyalty and voiced intentions to remain in teaching" (p. 65, Edvantia, 2007).

A recommendation from Darling-Hammond (2003) to encourage teacher retention begins with the campus leadership. Darling-Hammond found that when administrators take time to improve the working conditions through support and a nurturing environment retention increases. It begins with seeking our and hiring better prepared teachers. This leads to increased student success as wee, and supports the link between preparedness, retention, and achievement. When administrators pair new teachers with mentor there is a need to ensure that the mentee share a common planning period, like grade levels, and like subject areas. Campus leaders that support the teaching staff through curriculum materials, lesson planning, current technology, instructional methods, and classroom management report a higher attrition rate (Darling-Hammond, 2003). Leaders also need to recognize the importance of beginning teachers having a reduced course load so they may have more time to learn from an experienced teacher (Fuller & Carpenter, 2008).

Sargent, (2003), reports that new teachers want to work in an environment in which they feel they belong. That supportive community, where there is structure, support, consistency and the freedom to take risks is the same environment students need in order to learn. Sargent further describes the school's role in addressing the emotional needs of new teachers through the social environment. New teachers can develop relationships with colleagues, which increases the likelihood of returning. In addition to isolation, new teachers must also endure the unofficial pecking order (Renard, 2003). The pecking order may look like hazing "Institutional practices and policies that result in new teachers experiencing poorer working conditions than their veteran colleagues" (Patterson, 2005).

New teachers report that isolation is a critical issue needs attention. In fact, "isolation is a primary reason that new teachers leave" (Dannin & Bacon, 1999, p. 206, as cited in Heller, 2004, p.6). New teachers should not have to learn wholly by experience, when the knowledge and support they need resides in the room next to theirs. Sargent, (2003), reported that new teachers want to work in an environment in which they feel they belong. That supportive community, where there is "structure, support, consistency and the freedom to take risks" is the same environment students need in order to learn. Sargent further describes the school's role in addressing the emotional needs of new teachers through social environments. New teachers, who develop relationships with colleagues, increase their likelihood of returning. In addition to isolation, new teachers must also endure the unofficial pecking order (Renard, 2003). The pecking order may look like hazing "Institutional practices and policies that result in new teachers experiencing poorer working conditions than their veteran colleagues" (Patterson, 2005).