Wyoming teacher preparation gets "D-"

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A national research and advocacy group gives higher marks to Wyoming's policies for teacher preparation programs and what state guidelines education students have to meet, but the state's grade remains poor.

Wyoming received a "D-minus" in the 2014 State Teacher Policy Yearbook from the Washington, D.C.-based National Council on Teacher Quality.

In past years, Wyoming has gotten an "F," according to the report. The average grade for all states this year was a "C."

"The state should ensure that all elementary teachers are sufficiently prepared for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas," according to the report.

However, Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board Executive Director Andrea Bryant said the report may not accurately reflect what happens in the state's teacher training program.

"We are the only state that has only one teacher preparatory program," Bryant said. "When you compare that to Texas or New York, where they have 200 - these state policy (reports) are a 'one size fits the big states,' not a 'one size fits all.'"

Standards are set at the state level to match either best practices suggested by corresponding national organizations or through state standards when there isn't a national group, she told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (http://bit.ly/1INrgIy).

These are all updated, but there also are standards and procedures required by the University of Wyoming that aren't a part of state policy, she said.

"Why would I make it redundant when the teacher prep program is already doing it, and I don't have to regulate more than one?" she said. "If I have concerns, I can call them. We don't need to put it in rules and regulation."

The relationship between the state licensing agency and the university's education program is a collaborative one, UW associate dean of education Leslie Rush said in an email interview.

"UW's College of Education is responsible for meeting the state's requirements, yes, but we have additional requirements that we make of our students," she said.

This year's report notes improvements in elementary teacher preparation overall, and specifically in mathematics.

"Wyoming's adoption of the new multiple subjects test is a step in the right direction," according to the report.

But it also penalizes Wyoming in several areas.

At the elementary level, the report says that the state needs to have more requirements for teachers who have only an early childhood license and require testing in the science of reading.

For teachers in the middle grades, the report credits Wyoming for having a specific license for teaching middle grades.

But the state also needs to have teachers pass content-specific tests for all the subjects they teach, and make sure teachers can build student knowledge and vocabulary with complex texts, according to the report.

"Preparation and licensure requirements for middle school teachers must address more than just content knowledge; the key instructional shifts articulated in college- and career-readiness standards must also be incorporated," according to the report.

The report adds that Wyoming's licensure requirements aren't aligned with the state's college- and career-readiness standards in some areas, something Rush disputes.

"In all of our teacher education courses, as students learn how to plan instruction and assess student learning, they are basing this work on Wyoming's state K-12 standards," she said. "That is a given in our program."

At the high school level, the report criticized the state for not requiring content tests, not offering science or social studies certifications that only cover one area, and not requiring a content test to add an endorsement to a teacher's license.

While UW doesn't require content area tests for secondary teachers, it does require that education students have a concurrent major in their content area and maintain a set grade-point average, Rush said.

"I believe that this is actually a higher and more educationally sound requirement than that represented by a score on a single content test," she said.

All grade levels also were penalized for not having supports for struggling readers, according to the report.

But the program at UW requires that education students complete either specific courses or includes the topic in coursework, Rush said.

"In our current elementary education teacher preparation programs, students take a sequence of courses in literacy that culminates in the 'Literacy Methods' course during the senior year, and then a full semester of residency," she said. "In our current secondary education programs, instruction in literacy is embedded in the content-specific methods courses taken by students just prior to their full semester of residency."


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com

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