Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Education Trust National Conference
Washington, DC
11/2/01

"Teacher Quality: The Role of the University"

Good morning. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to speak.

A Changed World

I want to begin with a few words about the future of education and our communities.

The events of September 11 affected all of us deeply. It changed the way we see ourselves and our role in the world.

Since then, we have had to deal with a great deal of uncertainty. But we can be sure of one thing: Our role as educators, leaders, and community members will be more important than ever. That's because the advancement of knowledge and understanding will be a critical part of our society's ability to adjust to this changed world.

Students will need to learn more about Eastern religions, culture, and tolerance. They will need to know how to keep safe at a time when Americans are under threat. They will need to have the security of knowing that an entire community supports them and their dreams for the future.

And they will need high-quality teachers to help them with all of these issues.

I see us all - K-12, universities, parents, communities - as partners in the education of our children. Our collaboration is essential to our success.

Now - let's talk more about teachers:

Why Teacher Quality?

Why focus on teacher quality?

First, thanks to the Education Trust and Katie Haycock's leadership, we know how important teacher quality is to student achievement.

Second, we know that the demand for more teachers has caused us to rely on too many people who have little or no formal training.

Third, we know that students who are at the greatest disadvantage are the most likely to have an unqualified teacher. The poorer you are, the better chance you will have an unprepared teacher.

Many students who need assistance with learning English as a new language, or with learning disabilities, or with overcoming other difficulties, are simply not getting the help that they need.

This means that our society and our policymakers - governors, legislators, state education administrators, school boards - cannot keep up the assumption that teachers don't really need that much special preparation. We cannot keep looking in the same places for new teachers, and training those teachers in the same way. And we cannot keep telling ourselves that all teacher preparation programs are good enough.

The Education Trust has shown us over and over just how important teacher quality is to student achievement. We all have a responsibility to make decisions based on this information, and act on it.

Why Involve Universities?

The next part relates to something that I hear all the time when I talk about teacher quality. People say, "What's this guy doing here? Isn't he the chancellor of a university? I thought universities didn't care that much about teacher preparation - it's such a small part of what they do."

I'm here to tell you that it has to be our number one priority.

Universities have a key role in teacher preparation. The better the teachers they prepare, the better the students they receive at their universities in the future. In other words, if universities want to improve themselves, they have to improve the public schools.

Universities also have a direct responsibility to help this country prepare more high-quality teachers. In the next ten years, it's estimated that California will need about 250,000 new teachers. Our country will need 2.5 million new teachers. So there's a great demand out there, and this means a great deal of responsibility that needs to be shouldered by country's universities.

The California State University, which has 23 campuses, prepares about 3 out of every 5 teachers in California. Teacher preparation is central to our mission. I thought I would mention some of the CSU's efforts throughout this presentation just to illustrate how universities can get involved in improving teacher quality.

What Universities Must Do

In 1999, the American Council on Education released a report that called on universities to pay more attention to teacher education and to make teacher preparation a higher priority. The report asked chancellors and university presidents to:

  • Be accountable for teacher quality
  • Involve the entire university, not just colleges of education
  • Assist in recruiting future teachers
  • Follow up with teacher-graduates
  • Speak out on teaching issues

Most importantly, universities need to look critically at the outcomes of their teacher preparation efforts. In other words, they need to find a way to assess the quality of the education they provide to their students. If that quality is not up to par, they need to improve it.

I thought I would talk about each one of these pieces individually, and share some information about what the CSU is doing as it relates to each of these items.

What Universities Must Do: Be Accountable

Universities need to take an active role in ensuring that their teacher-graduates can meet the demands of today's classrooms. They must be ready to evaluate quality and identify areas for improvement.

I think the word "accountability" has become somewhat overused. It's easy to forget what it really means. So I use these questions as a starting point for defining quality in teacher preparation:

  • Are our teacher-graduates fully prepared to help students learn and achieve?
  • Are those teachers confident in their abilities?
  • Are they prepared to help students meet state standards?
  • And - if not, how can we improve these programs and better help our prospective teachers?

The CSU system has had to deal with these questions because it runs teacher education programs on such a large scale. Earlier this year, we undertook a systemwide evaluation of our teacher preparation programs. I believe it is the first systemwide evaluation in the country.

We found that while teachers were generally well-prepared in their subject areas, they need more assistance and support when they are first starting out.

To summarize our results:

  • More than 80 percent of K-8 school administrators were satisfied with teacher quality. Roughly 70 percent of our new K-8 teachers were satisfied with their own level of preparation to teach reading-language arts and mathematics.

  • In the upper grades, 86 percent of school administrators said that the teachers were prepared to teach in their subject areas according to the state curriculum framework. 74 percent of the teachers felt that they were prepared to teach in their subject areas according to the state curriculum.

  • We learned that 36 percent of our teaching graduates do not participate in the state's beginning teacher support program, and 30 percent said they were given no information about it. In an upcoming change in state policy, participation in an induction program will be a credential requirement beginning in 2004.

  • We found that only 52 percent of our teaching graduates had the benefit of practice teaching with the support of university supervisors and cooperating teachers. 18 percent had their own classrooms as intern teachers, so they were supported by university supervisors plus site-based coaches who were not in their classrooms. The remaining 31 percent were neither student teachers nor interns because they were hired as emergency teachers before completing their teacher preparation.

We will continue to evaluate these results and identify areas for improvement, especially for our beginning teachers.

What Universities Must Do: Involve the Entire University

Another recommendation from the ACE was that the entire university, not just teacher educators, should share the responsibility for preparing high-quality teachers.

Integrating the arts and sciences faculty is a critical step -- especially as universities move toward blended teacher education programs that mix content and pedagogy. We need to coordinate schedules so that writing courses line up with writing instruction courses, mathematics courses line up with mathematics instruction courses, and so on.

Another important part of involving the entire university is in helping future teachers receive a solid grounding in subject matter. Teacher education programs must include an emphasis on content that is as least as strong as its emphasis on methodology. Teachers - especially in mathematics and science disciplines - need to have a solid understanding of an academic discipline before they can teach it well. In other words, if you don't understand biology yourself, it's nearly impossible to teach it.

A third responsibility of the entire university is aligning university and K-12 standards. All faculty can take part in this. When the standards are aligned, teacher-graduates will be better prepared to assist students in meeting state standards.

What Universities Must Do: Recruit Future Teachers

Recruiting new teachers is another important area for university involvement. But before we start talking about recruiting teachers, I thought it would help to understand what our students look like.

This pie chart shows the ethnic and racial distribution of California's K-12 public school students last year. Some projections say that this is what America will look like in 2025.

Why does it matter what students look like?

First, there is general agreement that our teaching force should mirror our nation's ethnic and racial diversity. Teachers provide important role models for students. The more they look like those students and the better they understand their communities, the more effectively they can do their work.

Second, even though most of us agree that our teaching workforce needs to be more diverse, only 14 percent of all teachers in the country are nonwhite.

So when we talk about recruiting teachers, we have to remember that we're recruiting the teachers for tomorrow, the teachers who will have to address the complex needs of a more integrated society. We need to start talking to students in community colleges, high schools, and even middle schools about the rewards of teaching. We need to reach out and find those students who can be inspirational role models in their own communities.

In California, our state policymakers realized that we needed to make a major commitment to recruiting teachers. So the CSU now runs a teacher recruitment effort known as CalTeach. CalTeach has made a big splash on the airwaves and on the web. We have advertised on places like MTV and ESPN - because that's what students are watching on TV.

This year, CalTeach also launched a national recruiting "road trip." Our recruiters have been driving around the country in those SUVs, recruiting teachers for California. They are visiting Miami, Dallas, Phoenix, Chicago, Seattle, Denver, Milwaukee, and many other cities and college towns.

Their slogan is "Left Coast. Right Job."

Here is just a sampling of the impact that CalTeach has had:

  • Over 12 million web site hits since 1998.
  • Over 42,000 teachers registered.
  • Over 1,300 positions advertised monthly.

What Universities Must Do: Follow Through

Universities also need to take responsibility for the students they graduate. They can offer such services as:

  • Support for beginning teachers
  • Professional development
  • "Teacher warranty" programs

Here are just a few examples of the work we are doing in these areas:

Beginning teachers: The CSU participates in California's Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program. This program assists new teachers as they begin their teaching careers. BTSA teachers have retention rates of over 90%, even after 3 years or more of teaching.

Professional development: The CSU has collaborated with the University of California to provide professional development to tens of thousands of California teachers, in subject areas ranging from English to reading to math to technology.

Teacher warranties: One of our universities, Cal State Long Beach, started a " teacher warranty" plan for their graduates who taught in local schools. If the graduate has difficulties, the university promises to offer free assistance for that teacher.

What Universities Must Do: Speak Out

University leaders have a lot of impact in a community. They carry a great deal of political capital. Just by virtue of their position, they have a responsibility to speak out.

If they get involved and active in issues that affect teachers and teacher quality, their activism will come back and benefit the university - and the communities in which they are located - in the long run.

Universities leaders can speak out on:

  • School funding disparities
  • Teacher salaries
  • Breaking down state barriers

The last one, breaking down state barriers, is an especially important advocacy piece. Given current teacher shortages, we need to talk about portable retirement annuity programs and multi-state certifications that allow teachers to move from one state to another.

What Next?

There's a message in here for what all of us can do, whether we're associated with universities, schools, community groups, or other organizations.

If we're going to take a real stand on teacher quality, we're going to need to be educated, be organized, and speak out to the right people - governors, legislatures, businesses, newspapers.

So I've come up with this list of what we can all do in our communities:

  • Read the news - In other words, know what's going on. And lean on your local news outlets to report on what's going on at your local schools and universities. Have them print results from test scores, assessments, etc.

  • Find a focus - Be focused like a laser on your issue.

  • Reach out - Get out and go to your local schools and universities. Ask to sit in on a class. Whenever I visit our campuses, I always ask them to take me to a local public school. I want to see what they are doing and how we are helping them, or how we can help them in the future.

  • Speak your mind - Talk to your friends, neighbors, business associates, and especially your local and state elected officials. Let them know how concerned you are about education.

  • Make the connection - and stay with it.

If we can all do all of these effectively, we can make a significant difference in teacher quality.

The First Year/Teach

Last, I'd like to share one more brief item:

The CSU, in cooperation with the Getty Trust, sponsored a documentary film by Davis Guggenheim. The film is called "The First Year." There is also a shorter version called "Teach," which we use for recruitment. These films follow the lives of first-year teachers as they try to help their students.

This film says more than I could ever say about the commitment and dedication of those people who choose to make an impact in their communities by teaching.

I have a few copies of the videotape here today if you are interested. You may also contact Sabine at sghobriel@calstate.edu.

Or you can look for it on TV. It is airing on PBS this fall.

I hope that this presentation has given you a good snapshot of the role that a university can play in shaping teacher quality.

I want to thank all of you for the work that you do in your communities, and for coming here to share your experiences and learn more about improving K-16 and P-16 partnerships.

Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to speak.

I'll be glad to answer any questions you have.


Back to speeches