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Lawmakers discuss requiring student teachers more experience before entering the classroom

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

This week, state lawmakers will consider a package of bills that would affect how colleges prepare student teachers.

Suzanne Gibbs is an elementary school teachers in Spring Arbor. During her 20 years, she’s had a lot of student teachers in her classroom. She admits it hasn’t always been a good experience.

“It’s scary to let those candidates in sometimes.  Because you don’t know what you’re going to get,” says Gibbs.

The House Education Reform Committee takes up a package of bills Thursday intended to give student teachers more experience before they reach the classroom.

State Rep. Daniela Garcia, R-Holland, says it’s not as much about standardizing training as it is exposing student teachers to more teaching experiences.

“We want to make sure that we’re providing the best programs and experiences for our student teaching candidates,” says Garcia. “So that they can be prepared when they reach the classroom.”

But the legislation is raising concerns among educators in Michigan’s colleges that prepare the next generation of the state’s teachers.

Joseph Lubig is with the Michigan Association for Colleges of Teacher Education. He says they are concerned about possible unfunded mandates in the bills, as well as how the legislation will affect required national accreditation standards the colleges follow in teacher training. 

“We are eager to have those in Lansing tap into our wealth of expertise and knowledge,” says Lubig, who says they plan to meet with lawmakers this week.

Veteran teacher Suzanne Gibbs is optimistic that progress will be made. She says something needs to be.   

“You don’t just have 28 students,” says Gibbs, “You have 28 students PLUS a college student.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.