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Michael Wohlfeil, Published June 29 2013

Letter: Concordia teacher ed is effective

On June 18, The Forum and its website carried a Reuters article with the headline, “Report shows rookie U.S. teachers woefully unprepared.” This article describes a report of the National Council on Teacher Quality in which the NCTQ presents its take on teacher preparation in the United States and finds it lacking. While the report makes for provocative reading, it is only one source of information to use when considering the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs, particularly those in our region. Other leaders in educational programs have noted that the National Council on Teacher Quality has used questionable methodology to reach its conclusions, which, if the headline portrays them accurately, do not reflect our experience at Concordia College.

Concordia takes teacher preparation seriously and routinely seeks feedback from alumni and from those who hire our graduates in order to determine our graduates’ readiness to teach and the degree to which they are effective in their own classrooms. Our students who major in elementary education enter schools with hundreds of hours of clinical experience, with a repertoire of teaching strategies and with an ability to deal with the realities of teaching today, including classroom management and the teaching of reading, topics emphasized by the NCTQ. Data from our graduates and school principals confirm this.

Contrary to the sentiment in the article expressed by Kate Walsh, the council’s president, the elementary education graduates of Concordia’s teacher preparation program complete multiple courses on the teaching of reading, have specific instruction in classroom management and regularly analyze data for use in improving instruction and enhancing student learning. Classroom observations, test scores and other data we collect indicate that our teacher candidates know their content well. Students preparing to teach a subject in secondary schools complete a full major in an arts and sciences discipline.

Results from the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examinations document that Concordia College students possess sufficient knowledge in basic skills, in principles of teaching and learning and in content knowledge to be successful in their own classrooms. In order to gather additional information about candidates’ readiness to teach beyond paper-and-pencil state tests, Minnesota has joined with 24 other states in implementing a national assessment of pre-service teachers, the edTPA. This instrument requires teacher candidates to document that they are effective in positively influencing student learning in a classroom setting. All graduates of Concordia’s teacher preparation program now complete the edTPA.

Concordia College, like the other teacher preparation programs in the region, is constantly assessing the effectiveness of its program and is using the data gathered to continuously revise and improve its curriculum. Our teacher preparation program is able to document its effectiveness and has evidence to show that our graduates are ready to enter the teaching profession and immediately have a positive impact on student learning.

Wohlfeil is education professor and interim chairman of the education department, Concordia College, Moorhead.