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Spring 2004
Beyond Rhetoric
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MUCH OF THE RECENT FOCUS on teacher preparation and quality can be traced to the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind initiative, which seeks to improve student achievement, in part by ensuring that all students have a "highly qualified" teacher by 2005-'06. The legislation defines "highly qualified" as those teachers who have demonstrated subject-matter competency and who have obtained a credential, or are enrolled in a preparation program leading to a credential. Regulators with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the state Board of Education — pressured by teacher unions, school boards and scholars, among other interest groups — are working out the details of precisely defining such standards and how and when to implement them.

UCLA supplied more credentialed teachers to the Los Angeles Unified School District than any other teacher-preparation program ... outpacing even California State University campuses, which collectively consitute the largest producer of teachers in the state.

Similarly, researchers for the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning cite "a debate within the state about the significance of formal teacher preparation and credentialing and the adequacy of alternative routes" to teaching. They advocate more stringent standards for teacher preparation. "We contend that a basic credential is only a starting point for becoming an accomplished professional ready to help all of his or her students meet rigorous academic standards," says the center's 2003 report.

That's a view generally endorsed at UCLA. "No teacher goes out there fully developed," says Dorr, who adds that it is imperative that teachers have access to institutional support and continuing education.

Whatever the outcome of the ongoing debate over standards and teacher preparation, UCLA Teacher Education Program administrators say they're sticking with their mission to prepare teachers for the urban schools where the need is greatest. While continually seeking ways to improve the program, administrators say they have no immediate plans to shift away from a two-year, full-time program that integrates a study of teaching methods with fieldwork. "That won't change," asserts Franke. "We believe very strongly that students need to understand theories about the best way to reach kids."

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