From the Field

A Fair Chance: Simple Steps to Strengthen and Diversify the Teacher Workforce

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Recognizing that half of U.S. elementary school teachers fail their state licensing exams on their first try, Hannah Putman and Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality conducted an analysis of 800 undergraduate teacher preparation programs, 250 graduate programs, and a small sample of alternative route programs. The results, explained in A Fair Chance: Simple Steps to Strengthen and Diversify the Teacher Workforce, show a significant lack of alignment between preparation program coursework and the content knowledge required on state licensing exams. For example, only 25 percent of programs currently cover the mathematics content necessary for elementary grades. The failure rates are higher among Black and Latino candidates, making it harder to diversify the teaching ranks.

The report offers three steps that higher education institutions and their teacher prep programs can take and three steps state policymakers can take to ensure the appropriate content is conveyed. These recommendations include publishing licensing test pass rates for candidates enrolled in a teacher prep program, as well as setting course requirements to align with what elementary teachers need to know. Their message, simply put, is that while not everyone will likely ever pass the licensing exam, everyone deserves a fair chance.