Alabama ranks among the top four states in the nation for preparing new teachers for the classroom, according to a recent study.
Fond memories of our favorite teachers remain burned into our minds for the rest of our lives.
They are the teachers who rose above the mediocrity to inspire us to learn. They are the teachers who loved what they were doing, and it showed as they challenged and engaged their students.
What if one of these standout educators led every classroom in Alabama?
Finding and hiring and supporting that kind of talent should be the goal of every school board member and state legislator.
A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality indicates Alabama has made a notable leap toward that goal. By earning a B-, Alabama was among the top four states for teacher preparation policies in 2012, up from a C in 2011. This places Alabama above the national average of D+ and one of just 14 states to show improvement from the previous year.
So how did we do it?
The state adopted several standards that make it tougher to become a teacher.
Middle school teachers in Alabama must pass an appropriate content test in every core subject in which they are licensed. Elementary teachers must have an in-depth knowledge of the core content in writing, grammar and composition. And full-time education students must spend at least 10 weeks in a school classroom.
The National Council on Teacher Quality also outlined ways in which the state can improve. These include closing loopholes that allow teacher candidates with a deficient score in one area of the state’s basic skills test to pass based on a composite score. Another is to require all elementary special education teacher candidates to pass the same content test as general elementary education candidates.
Other ways to attract the best candidates and weed out low performers is to raise the minimum ACT and SAT test scores for candidates before they are admitted to education programs, and to raise salaries for the profession in general.
As we age, the memory of most of our teachers is lost in a sea of mediocrity. We accept this mediocrity through rules and laws that do not demand and reward excellence.
If we are to operate under a system that makes it so difficult to replace mediocre teachers, it is good we are making progress in strengthening the basic requirements to become a teacher. The journey to becoming a teacher should be both tough and rewarding.
By demanding excellence of education students from their admission to college until their graduation, we can ensure that schoolchildren in Alabama are taught by the best of the best.