New Jersey Considers Raising Teacher Education Standards

Published April 29, 2015

New Jersey is the latest state to consider raising standards for students entering the state’s university-level education programs. Among several recommendations under consideration by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJ DOE) are doubling student teaching from one semester to a full year and requiring students pursuing a teaching degree to teach in two different school settings, including spending time with special-needs students.

State officials are also considering stronger requirements for substitute teachers. Under the proposal, eligibility to be a substitute teacher would require a bachelor’s degree instead of just an associate degree or 60 college credits, the current requirements.

According to a February 2015 presentation by the NJ DOE to the State Board of Education, teacher quality contributes 35 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement and three out of five teachers say their schooling didn’t prepare them for the realities of teaching. Less than one-quarter of teachers nationwide graduated in the top third of their class, and only 14 percent of top-third graduates go on to teach in high-poverty schools, the DOE presentation stated.

The DOE proposes a four focus areas of improvement. The first is attracting stronger candidates for teaching programs. Second, the DOE recommends enhancing teacher preparation. Third, the DOE proposes closer monitoring of students in teacher preparation programs throughout their academic career. Fourth, the DOE recommends sharing performance data of teaching candidates and offering support programs for underperforming prospective teachers.

Jeff Passe, dean of the College of New Jersey’s School of Education in Ewing, questions the DOE’s findings. In an email, Passe said, “Most value-added studies find that teachers account for about one percent to 14 percent of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality are found in the system-level conditions.”

He says a learning curve exists for “60 percent” of many post-graduation professions and not just teaching.

‘Bar Set Really Low’

Passe is skeptical of the DOE’s assertion only 23 percent of teachers graduate in the top-third of their class.

Sandy Jacobs, vice president and managing director of state policy for the National Council on Teacher Quality, says she’s pleased with the developments in New Jersey.

“The bar has been set really low in the past,” said Jacobs.

Jacobs says Delaware, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are making great strides in “raising the floor for teachers.” These states are moving forward with more rigorous entrance requirements and programs for teacher education programs, she says.

“We’re at a time nationally where we’re raising our standards dramatically,” Jacobs said. “More importantly, as we’re focusing more on raising the standards for educating our students, it’s time we raised the standards for those who teach as well.”

Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is an information technology and telecommunications policy advisor for The Heartland Institute.

Image by Jose Kevo.

Learn More:

“Enhancing Preparation & Certification to Increase Novice Teacher Effectiveness,” Presentation of Proposed Amendments to State Board of Education, New Jersey Dept. of Education, Feb. 4, 2015: