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Originally published Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 4:05 PM

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Editorial: Time for a re-evaluation of teacher training

Teacher-training programs nationwide need to rethink the skills educators need for today and tomorrow’s classrooms.

Seattle Times Editorial

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A NATIONAL rating of teacher colleges falls short of the kind of consumer guidance to aspiring teachers and school systems who hire them than its authors intended.

The review of 1,130 institutions that train 99 percent of the nation’s schoolteachers was done by the Washington, D.C.,-based National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report. But it should not alone direct where would-be educators get their training or which schools superintendents look to when hiring new teachers. Assessments should be more nuanced.

The teacher-quality council set 18 standards for teacher-preparation programs and used a four-star rating system to show how institutions are doing. The analysis included 24 higher-education institutions in Washington state, only one of which, Washington State University, received three stars and made the Honor Roll.

The land-grant institution has a long and distinguished history training teachers. On the website of WSU’s College of Education, a Lake Washington School District principal is quoted as saying she will only take WSU student teachers. Well-deserved praise.

The rest of the state’s teacher-training institutions received mixed or low marks for their undergraduate and graduate programs for elementary and secondary educators. Central Washington University, which churns out the highest number of new teachers in the state, received one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half stars for its undergraduate and graduate programs.

The University of Washington’s graduate teaching programs at Bothell and Tacoma campuses were rated low enough to toss them onto a “consumer alert.”

But low marks should not automatically consign a program to failure.

The report says it is too easy to get into teacher-preparation programs. Most undergraduate programs require a 2.5 GPA. But at the UW, the average GPA of its teacher candidates is a 3.5. The UW also has a model teacher residency partnership with the Seattle Public Schools, offering student-teachers real-world experience.

Teacher-training programs are undergoing a revamping similar to schools in the K-12 system. Most are rethinking what skills educators need for tomorrow’s classrooms.

Knowing which institutions get it and which don’t will require more investigation and information than a ratings system provides.

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