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* The need for highly competent teachers is more critical now than at any other time in history. Today's world is a rapidly changing economic environment, and high school graduates need highly refined skills to be successful in the work force: strong communication skills, technological savvy, comfort with ambiguity, and the ability to tackle problems from unique perspectives. In the United States, teachers are not only challenged with teaching, but must also face classrooms that are more diverse than ever before. Students come from a wide variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds as well as achievement levels, and many of them live in poverty or substandard conditions. Today's elementary classrooms include children with several different first languages and a wide variety of physical, emotional, and learning problems. Experts agree that teachers are the most influential factor in determining student success. Teachers, especially reading teachers, must be very clear about the skills their students require and be able to meet their students' diverse learning needs.
There have been increased calls in the U.S. for innovative teacher preparation to meet the growing demand for high-quality teachers for an increasingly diverse student population. Many colleges and universities have met this challenge with sweeping changes in their teacher preparation programs. In addition, in an effort to deal with the shortage of teachers, many states are adopting alternative pathways to teacher licensure. There is renewed emphasis on the professional development of inservice teachers, and teachers seeking advanced licensure are encouraged to acquire national board certification or engage in some other inquiry-based line of professional development.
In future issues of this column I will explore some recent trends …