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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 1/31/2013

Teaching counts

What makes a good teacher is hard to quantify. But good preparation is important, and a group that works to improve teaching says most states — including Ohio — aren’t doing a very good job of training teachers.

Student success involves many things: adequate funding, modern facilities and technology, a safe and nurturing learning environment, well-fed and well-rested children, and parental and community support. But teachers are the most important factor. When students in Ohio’s traditional public schools and charter schools don’t meet state standards, teachers bear some responsibility.

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Developing great teachers starts with finding the best candidates. But according to a new report by the Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based organization that seeks to improve instruction in American schools, nearly three-quarters of Ohio’s teacher-preparation programs are not selective enough. Candidates in Ohio don’t even have to pass a general academic-proficiency test to get into a teacher-training program.

Once prospective educators are accepted, the report says, Ohio programs do a poor job of preparing elementary-school teachers in general and elementary math teachers in particular. Special-education teachers also are often poorly prepared, the report said. Yet the education departments continue to churn out new teachers, 96 percent of whom pass state licensing exams.

Gov. John Kasich touts charter schools as a way of improving education in Ohio. He expanded a state voucher program that allows students in failing public schools to transfer to charter schools.

The governor pushed a program to guarantee that third-grade students would be proficient at reading. He promised a new evaluation process to reward good teachers and weed out bad ones.

But the research and advocacy group Policy Matters Ohio cites studies that conclude that charter schools do no better a job of educating Ohio’s children than traditional public schools. The third-grade reading guarantee was underfunded. And weeding out bad teachers won’t improve education unless there are more highly qualified, inspirational teachers to take their place.

More positively, Ohio is only one of only eight states that track the percentage of graduates of each college and university whose students met state standards for annual academic progress. That provides a useful measure of the effectiveness of teacher training programs.

Today, Mr. Kasich is scheduled to share details of his education plan, including how he will pay to create the high-quality schools that are critical to Ohio’s future. But two things already seem clear: Ohio can’t have the best schools unless it prepares the best teachers. And taxpayers in communities such as Toledo are skeptical about voting for levies to pay for the next great idea in education.

There are many fine teachers in Ohio’s public and private schools. But there aren’t nearly enough. If that doesn’t change, other reforms won’t matter.



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