White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers
It is a great privilege and honor to appear today as a guest of our nation's First Lady, and I want to thank her for this invitation. In 1999, Mrs. Bush was the keynote speaker at the grand opening of The University of Texas at Austin's Family Literacy Center. Mrs. Bush was then the First Lady of Texas, and greatly admired by all of us for her deep belief and active support for early childhood education and literacy.
I also want to express my gratitude to the former governor of Texas, President George W. Bush, for his remarkable dedication to education.
I am deeply honored and very pleased to speak about two College of Education initiatives that have enhanced our university's teacher preparation program as well as influenced educators throughout the state.
First, we have changed how the State of Texas approaches reading instruction and how it prepares teachers to help students learn to read. Much of the credit goes to Dr. Sharon Vaughn, Director of our College's Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts. Under Dr. Vaughn's remarkable leadership, the Reading Center has introduced more than 60,000 of the state's kindergarten, first grade and second grade teachers to the most effective research-based practices for teaching reading, particularly through the summer Reading Academies.
In addition, The Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts is training faculty members at other colleges and universities throughout the State of Texas in the most effective, research-based methods for teaching reading—methods that have demonstrated real gains. To date, 28 colleges and over 100 faculty members have been included in this training called the Higher Education Collaborative.
Second, The University of Texas's College of Natural Sciences proposed a collaborative effort in 1997 to jointly prepare math and science teachers. Today, faculty from the College of Education and Natural Sciences work together to prepare future secondary math and science teachers, with considerable support from the University administration and the active cooperation of the Austin Independent School District.
We began the UTeach Program with 28 students in the fall of 1997, and are quickly moving toward 100 graduates annually. From early field experiences and strong content preparation in science and mathematics to beginning courses taught and coordinated by master teachers, the students in this program receive a rigorous introduction to math and science teaching.
UTeach emphasizes early practical experience, summer internships, and considerable attention to attracting minority students. UTeach may be the largest program for secondary science and math teacher preparation at any major research university in our nation. At The University of Texas, we believe that teacher preparation is a university-wide, shared responsibility—and that is what has made this program successful.
We are proud of these and other programs at the College of Education. However, I have to tell you that it is NOT enough. We now must confront the most fundamental issues of teacher replacement and teacher preparation reform that will shape the future of K-12 education for the next 30 years.
I know that everyone in this room feels a serious obligation to the 53 million children in our schools, and particularly to the 29 million children in our elementary schools. In the next 20 years, we will replace virtually the entire teaching staff in our nation's schools -- over two-and-a-half million teachers in all.
The quest to find enough competently trained teachers to staff every classroom in America's more-than 50,000 elementary schools will rise to crisis proportions if we do not make major changes in the way we prepare teachers and staff our schools.
This obligation to our nation's children and the opportunity to replace so many teachers have made me think deeply about what all of us working together can do. How can we ensure that our schools are as good as any in the world, in order to preserve the integrity of this great democracy?
I'd like to focus today on a proposal that will guarantee a very professional and qualified staff in every elementary school in America. I selected the elementary schools for two reasons. First, that is where the strong academic foundation must be constructed for all subsequent education. Second, when students enter middle school, they begin to receive much of their instruction from subject specialists under the guidance of department chairs.
Every teacher must be competent, but I am proposing today that the 200 major teacher education institutions undertake to prepare a group of new professional educators over the next 20 years, perhaps as many as 200,000, who are superbly qualified to serve as professional leaders, a first step toward new thinking about what constitutes an elementary staff and how people get trained in education.
There is a serious imbalance between the demand for and the supply of outstanding teachers. I do not believe that we can create a cadre of superbly qualified educators sufficient to staff every position in our nation's schools—any more than we can produce only superbly qualified attorneys or physicians or bricklayers.
We can, however, prepare 200,000 professionally trained Lead Teachers in 20 years, enough to ensure that several of these educators are in every elementary school from Maine to California, from Montana to Texas. These Lead Teachers will be available to work with the "quality teachers in every classroom" that the President properly referred to in his State of the Union address.
These new educational professionals will have had a solid undergraduate education, possess high intelligence, exceptional teaching ability, qualities of leadership and the powerful desire to grow professionally as Lead Teachers and not administrators. These will be professionals who want to remain close to students and teachers as opposed to conducting such necessary administrative work as building maintenance, personnel selection, community relations, central office liaison, and budget preparation.
After success at the baccalaureate level and careful selection, the Lead Teacher candidates will complete a professional program, perhaps the equivalent of a law school education. The new program will prepare them to look carefully at research, to select educational materials, to work closely with teachers and others who perform instruction, to study and to make judgments about educational methods, to evaluate curriculum, to understand the latest technologies and how they relate to education, and to conduct an assessment and diagnosis of individual and classroom problems.
Comprising one-sixth of the staff of every elementary school in America, these professionals will spend their time helping all of the other staff members in the building do their jobs far better by coaching teachers, organizing professional development, introducing new research, familiarizing staff with new state requirements and other tasks that raise the expertise of the entire staff.
In our complex and diverse nation, all schools will never be alike. But all schools must be effective and high achieving by every standard the local community, state and federal governments wish to apply. We cannot continue in a system where some schools have well-trained staff members and others do not; we cannot tolerate a system in which thousands of schools seem never to reach competency; and, most important, we cannot condone a system in which perfectly intelligent children languish far below any acceptable achievement standard.
Of course, significant change raises many questions that will be considered at a University of Texas conference on restructuring teacher education later this year. You will be receiving additional information from us in the near future.
Here are a few questions of importance:
How can we establish this Lead Teacher program in a way that does not markedly increase a school district's budget?
What can we do to prepare the teaching profession for a new reward system? We cannot ask people to undergo very serious and time-consuming professional preparation unless we subsidize and reward them as Lead Teachers.
What, precisely, should the content and experiences be in a new, rigorous preparation program?
What sort of qualification standards should be established to assure that the Lead Teacher program is rigorous and that graduates are fully qualified as educational leaders?
What will need to be done to prepare the teaching profession and the general public to accept these highly qualified Lead Teachers much the way elementary principals are accepted now?
American education has historically transformed lives and allowed millions of young people to rise socially and economically beyond their roots. In the past decades, while many teachers and schools have done a superb job, many have lost their way.
My final vision is of a day when every parent in our land can be confident that each elementary school will be a place where qualified staff and superbly talented and well-prepared Lead Teachers are working to make that school a place where no child is without hope or help and where high achievement and steady progress are routinely expected.
Again, thank you Mrs. Bush for inviting me to the White House. It has been a pleasure to see you once more and to address this distinguished group.