Education Commissioner Gist testifies regarding educator excellence

In a Congressional hearing on Thursday (February 27, 2014), Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist emphasized the important role educator-preparation programs play as part of the ongoing work in Rhode Island toward ensuring educator excellence.

“To teach successfully, graduates of our preparation programs need to know their subject, know how to reach a diverse population of students, and know how to apply their learning and their skills in a classroom setting,” Commissioner Gist said in her testimony. “Recognizing this need, we in Rhode Island worked closely over the past year with our partners in higher education to significantly revise our approval standards for educator-preparation programs.”

Commissioner Gist testified before a joint session of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education and the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, entitled “Exploring Efforts to Strengthen the Teaching Profession.”

Commissioner Gist informed the committee members that the new Rhode Island educator-preparation program approval standards include five key expectations. Educator-preparation programs in Rhode Island must:  

  • focus on the importance of classroom practice;
  • recruit and support a diverse pool of teacher candidates;
  • assess whether their students are ready to become candidates for educator certification;
  • collect information about the performance of graduates who have entered the teaching profession;
  • publicly report on the quality of the preparation program.
The Rhode Island Board of Education approved these educator preparation program-approval standards in November.

“We expect our teacher-preparation programs to coordinate field placements closely with schools and to develop measures to determine how effectively their aspiring teachers are performing during their placements,” Commissioner Gist said.

Thanking the Committee members for their commitment to improving the effectiveness of classroom teachers, Commissioner Gist encouraged the Committee to seek further input from state leaders, from national organizations such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and from educators in the field.

In response to questions from Committee members about data the U.S. Department of Education collects regarding educator preparation, Commissioner Gist said that “it would be helpful if this data collection were limited to data points that provide evidence of quality and that states and educator-preparation programs find to be truly valuable, such as data on outcomes.”

At the request of Committee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-Indiana), Commissioner Gist and the other witnesses who testified agreed to provide the Committee with information on how the federal collection of data on educator preparation could be more streamlined.

A copy of Commissioner Gist’s written testimony is available online.