Improving educational outcomes in the United States is a challenging problem, one that preoccupies contemporary reformers and critics alike. With a system of schooling that has never delivered high quality education to all students, policy makers and educational leaders are calling for more complex and ambitious goals to prepare youth for the demands of the 21st century. Visions of better schooling include innovative uses of technology, a much greater emphasis on collaborative work, integrated and problem- based curricula, and higher expectations for students. Too often minimized is what such changes imply for the interac- tive work of teaching and learning. And, given that there are almost 4 million teachers in the United States, preparing teachers to meet these demands is a massive undertaking. Nonetheless, improvements in student learning depend on substantial, large-scale changes in how we prepare and sup- port teachers.
Agreement is widespread that teachers are key to student learning, and efforts to improve teacher quality have prolif- erated. Most initiatives, however, have focused on teacher recruitment and retention and on developing new pathways to teaching. In this article, we argue that such initiatives are insufficient without fundamental renovations to the curricu- lum of professional education for teachers, wherever and through whatever pathway it occurs. We claim that practice must be at the core of teachers’ preparation and that this entails close and detailed attention to the work of teaching and the development of ways to train people to do that work effectively, with direct attention to fostering equitably the educational opportunities for which schools are responsible.