(CNSNews.com) - Having a "great teacher" in every classroom is critical for the nation's success, the White House said on Friday, as it announced that President Obama has directed the Education Department to come up with a plan to strengthen America's teacher preparation programs.
Among other things, the Obama administration will use taxpayer money to pressure states to improve their teacher-prep programs, including those taught at colleges and universities.
For example, the administration will hand out TEACH grants only to students who attend "high-quality" teacher education programs. (The TEACH Grant Program provides up to $4000 a year to students who are planning to become teachers in a high-need field in a low-income area.)
In addition, the administration says it will "encourage" all states to develop "meaningful" ways of identifying high- and low-performing teacher preparation programs.
It wants to see "bold new standards" for teacher prep programs, including "higher entry and exit standards" (tougher exams, in other words); and it wants states to collect data about where new teachers get jobs, how long they stay, and how well their students do.
The administration wants that information to be available to potential teachers and the public; and it wants more teachers to learn in "real schools with the help of master teachers."
"These critical changes will help to increase recognition for high-performing teacher preparation programs, and create a much-needed feedback loop to provide information to prospective teachers, schools and districts, and the general public, and drive improvement across programs," a White House fact sheet said.
The White House also notes that strengthened teacher preparation and support "will help to make teaching an increasingly desirable and rewarding career."
Diversity appears to be a factor as well.
An image on the Education Department's webpage says the nation's teaching force "does not reflect the increasing diversity of America's students." It also says 72 percent of students "are not prepared to address the needs of students with diverse cultural backgrounds."
According to the Education Department, almost two-thirds of new teachers say their teacher-prep program left them unprepared for the realities of the classroom.
The White House anticipates that its teacher-prep plan will be ready for "public discussion" by this summer, and it expects to issue regulations next year.
As CNSNews.com previously reported, the Obama administration also plans to exert tighter control over the nation's colleges and universities by tying federal student aid to colleges that meet certain criteria, including access, affordability and how well students do in school and beyond.