OUR OPINION: Teachers should start with more knowledge

By NEMS Daily Journal

The 62,000-member Parents’ Campaign, a private-sector, non-profit advocacy organization for public education progress in Mississippi, makes a non-legislative priority one of its most important 2013 policy goals, and it can be achieved by reforming and strengthening the curriculum in Mississippi’s public university schools of education.
The Campaign, as it is often called, seeks to have “teacher education programs … require more focus on content areas (the subjects teachers teach) as well as instruction in Common Core Standards and in diagnostic/formative assessments and data snalysis.”
Stated more simply: Focus university education degrees on the demands of the 21st century and not on the inadequate methods of the past or, as applicable, as they are practiced now.
The people who lead and work as volunteers in the Parents’ Campaign are the most passionate voices in support of public schools.
And, the Campaign is honest. Its position is based on widespread dissatisfaction with the level of preparation entering teachers from the state’s schools of education bring to the public school classroom.
Parents’ Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome, interviewed last week by the Daily Journal, said, “A depth of knowledge is critical …” in understanding how to analyze basic data about students and their progress. Loome said it’s especially critical, with transitioning to the much more rigorous Common Core State Standards in 2014, that teachers understand from the start what’s required, what’s expected and how it can be successfully taught.
She said schools of education need to be revamped to offer an academic track that’s the equivalent of an honors’ college – high entrance standards, more demanding curriculum, and higher expectations from the first class to commencement.
It is not coincidental that the Campaign supports $12.5 million state appropriation for Teach for America, the program that sends exceptionally academically qualified young teachers whose degrees are in subject areas into classrooms, and of course provides them first with training about classroom management, behavioral standards, and intense instruction.
The state needs to produce equivalent teachers from its schools of education.
The Campaign also supports a meritbased compensation system that would reward the most successful teachers in moving students forward, and measure that performance at intervals through the school year, rather than just at the end. The compensation policy would require legislative action, but a form of the idea is supported by Gov. Phil Bryant.
On another important issue, the Campaign supports a conservative approach to establishing charter schools, with authorization only in underperforming school zones.
The Parents Campaign’s agenda provides a needed antidote to an unacceptable status quo while holding legislators and others accountable for providing the support and resources schools need to succeed.