Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

U.S. needs better teaching practice standards, Ball tells House panel

School of Education Dean Deborah Ball told a House committee that the lack of a coherent system for supplying quality teachers to every classroom and to every student in the nation is “unethical” and needs to change “deliberately and without delay.”

“Right now, teachers are considered ‘qualified’ simply by participating in an approved program or completing an academic major,” Ball said. “This means that being ‘qualified’ does not depend on demonstrating that you can teach.”

Watch a video of Ball's testimony on YouTube.

Testifying Tuesday before the House Committee on Education and Labor, Ball outlined steps to provide high-quality teaching in U.S. classrooms.

“We must establish specific standards for teaching practice and build a professionally valid licensure system. Assessments would focus on teachers’ content knowledge, their actual skill with the instructional practices most important for student learning, and their persistence in working to make sure that every one of their students learns.”

To prepare students for these standards, Ball recommended a system of rigorous training based on practice, including a curriculum focused on content-specific instructional practices and specialized knowledge, clinical practice and feedback, and credible, predictive assessments of skill and knowledge so that “no one enters a classroom without demonstrated capacity for effective performance as a beginning teacher.”

Ball was joined on the panel by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Pamela Salazar, assistant professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vega;, and Marcus Winters, senior fellow at The Manhattan Institute.

The hearing is one in a series of steps the committee is taking in an effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind.

Ball closed by saying, “Teaching is intricate work that can be learned to high levels of skill with appropriate training. We have not yet done that through any approach. It is time to mobilize the expertise, knowledge, and will to build a system to supply skilled teachers to our nation’s classrooms. We know how to do this. And our young people need it.”