Quality, Clinical Preparation Is Nonnegotiable—Let’s Figure This Out

By Dan Brown, National Board Certified Teacher Jul 09, 2013

People becoming teachers need significant time to learn their craft before they take on the full responsibility of the job. This is nonnegotiable. No other high-functioning profession tolerates such widespread under-preparation.

Ten years ago, straight out of college, I became a teacher. I had no experience in teaching or preparation beyond seven frantic weeks of student teaching during the summer before I attempted to lead a Bronx fourth-grade class. Fueled by idealism and a track record of earning good grades, I felt I could compensate for my inexperience with my youthful energy. Predictably, the year was a disaster, both for me and for the students. And I left the teaching profession. The long version of the story is here.

A clinical-based teacher prep program brought me back, saved my career, and put me in a position to help hundreds of students move toward becoming their best selves. Time with great mentors and a reduced teaching load were indispensable in preparing me—not only to survive but also to be consistently effective. We know what works.

I’m looking forward to seeing the GTL Center take up a solution-oriented discussion that gets into the nitty-gritty of teacher prep.

What are the barriers to pairing preservice interns with great cooperating teachers—and how do we overcome them?

Emporia State University, in Emporia, Kansas, seems to have this figured out: The retention rate of its graduates after five years in the profession is about double the national average. In addition, preservice interns at Emporia State spend two semesters in the classroom with their cooperating teachers. That’s a whole lot longer than the typical student teaching experience. Check out a video produced by the U.S. Department of Education profiling Emporia State’s success.

What are the keys to expanding teacher residency programs, such as the Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago? They show real promise.

How do we reimagine Teacher Prep 2.0? The Center for Teaching Quality has an insightful, teacher-written report with models and ideas.

Let’s figure this out before too many more students have to see a baffled rookie teacher at the front of the room.


Dan Brown is a National Board Certified Teacher. During the 2012–2013 school year, he has served as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U. S. Department of Education. In September 2013, he become the Director of the Future Educators Association. Dan Brown didn’t write The Da Vinci Code, and he’s okay with that. Follow him on twitter @danbrownteacher or email him at danbrownteacher@gmail.com


I agree that teacher preparation is essential for increasing teaching effectiveness so that students succeed. I am glad that you were eventually given the tools you needed to become the successful educator you are today and I applaud your efforts to begin this dialogue. I am happy to share that there are several colleges and universities that have strong teacher prep programs very similar to Emporia's program. Several universities in Virginia have undergrad programs that have the undergrads working with a mentor teacher/school/classroom during their sophomore year and continue their program ending in a 5th year with a Master's in Education. I have been fortunate to work with many of these qualified graduates and they have been exemplary teachers. So, I agree that teacher prep programs need to be more than a 6-7 week summer course, and, yes, many colleges and universities currently have these programs in place.

Thanks for the comment Judy! Which Virginia programs would you single out for excellence? The more spotlights we can put on quality examples the better.


Dan, my personal history is a little different. I was certified as an elementary teacher in Washington State back in the mid-90s through a post BA program at the University of Washington in Seattle that doesn't exist anymore. It had the advantage of requiring a little over a year of coursework and of integrating time in the field throughout, leading up to full time student teaching in the spring, but all in the same school. This meant I had a full academic year in the same classroom, which in my case was a multiage, team-taught 3-4-5th grade class of about 60 students. Now I am a teacher educator and supervise student teachers who have to get up to speed in 14 weeks of student teaching. What precedes that are mostly observations scattered in fieldwork requirements across courses. What's worse, they have to switch classrooms halfway through to gain experience in different grade levels and in settings with students who have disabilities if they add that certification. I can only imagine how unprepared those who get a few weeks of training in the summer must feel when they face classrooms of their own. One interesting idea that has not been adopted is to split up the teacher preparation programs so that first the courses necessary for certification are completed, and then those that pertain to the masters degree can be completed once the teacher candidates begin teaching full time. This would give some the option of teaching for a year or two before returning for the advanced coursework. I'd like to see some more experimentation with models that don't just make students plow straight through but provide opportunities for more in-depth experiences with P-12 students in schools.

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