The recent release of the NCTQ report on secondary teacher preparation programs highlights the positives and negatives of hundreds of undergraduate-level programs across the country. It’s clear in the report, that while some programs get it right, systematically there needs to be a shift in the methodologies that are preparing our future teachers.

This becomes especially true when discussing the differences in how we prepare our elementary and secondary school teachers. Teacher preparation programs do a much better job of preparing secondary teachers than they do in preparing elementary school teachers. While only 6% of programs preparing secondary teachers have a D or F grade, over 50% of programs preparing elementary grade levels received a D or F grade, largely due to the poor quality of content preparation.

Content knowledge, preparation, and certification guidelines reveal themselves as the major themes in NCTQ’s report, and for good reason. After all, according to NCTQ, teachers who have strong subject-matter expertise are far more effective than those who don’t. With English and mathematics teachers, we seem to be okay; 99% of such teachers majored in those particular subjects. The real concern comes into play when discussing social studies and science preparation programs because state certification standards are so broad surrounding these subjects. NCTQ ratings are much lower for those programs that allow their teacher candidates to teach different subjects under the same umbrella certification (for example, a science teacher who teaches biology, physics, AND chemistry rather than focusing on one specific subject area) rather than developing expertise in a single subject. Interestingly, this issue may be due in part to schools and states historically prioritizing flexibility rather than quality.

NCTQ provides several recommendations for improving preparation programs, including requiring more content-specific licensure, stronger admission requirements for candidates, and the development of functioning partnerships districts and the preparation programs that provide a pipeline of talent for their schools.

At America Succeeds, we believe business leaders have vested interest in improving  educator preparation programs. By empowering teachers through stronger preparation to meet the challenges they’ll face in the classroom, states can ensure they’re giving every student equal opportunities – including a great teacher in every classroom – and preparing them to become tomorrow’s leaders. States would be wise to include business leaders in the conversation between schools, districts, and states, and utilize their expertise and collective voice as a powerful lever for advancing positive policy changes.