In June, the Committee on Education and the Workforce unanimously passed the Ready to Teach Act--the first in a series of bills the U.S. House of Representatives will consider as part of the overall Higher Education Act reauthorization. Designed to improve the quality of teacher preparation, the bill includes APA-recommended language defining the term "teaching skills."
The committee adopted a four-part definition: Such skills, the legislation states, draw on scientifically based research and include conveying and explaining subject matter content effectively. In addition, they are designed to increase student achievement using strategies specific to the subject matter, regular assessment of student learning, identification and tailoring of instruction to students' specific learning needs, and a focus on classroom management.
In crafting the definition, APA drew on a group of psychologists that includes researchers, education school deans, APA's Board of Educational Affairs members and representatives from APA divisions interested in education. Nora S. Newcombe, PhD, the James Glackin Distinguished Faculty Fellow at Temple University, was one of the psychologists involved.
"It's very important for mainstream psychologists--not just education or school psychologists--to participate in the process of rethinking teacher preparation," says Newcombe, past-president of APA's Div. 7 (Developmental). "We are the basic science education needs to look to, even for such day-to-day problems as staffing recess."
The bill's next step will be full consideration by the House. But no matter what happens, the language sets a precedent.
"We hope congressional staff will refer back to the definition for all future education legislation," says Jennifer Smulson of APA's Public Policy Office.
Adds Rena Subotnik, PhD, director of APA's Center for Psychology in the Schools and Education, who worked with Smulson on the recommended language: "We think this was a big coup. It gets organized psychology at the table with regard to legislative policy in the realm of teacher quality."