(Wash. Post) University programs that train U.S. teachers get mediocre marks in first-ever ratings

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The vast majority of the 1,430 education programs that prepare the nation’s K-12 teachers are mediocre, according to a first-ever ranking that immediately touched off a firestorm.

Released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based advocacy group, the rankings are part of a $5 million project funded by major U.S. foundations. Education secretaries in 21 states have endorsed the report, but some universities and education experts quickly assailed the review as incomplete and inaccurate.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted June 18, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. BlueOntario wrote:

There was a piece on NPR about this report that may be worth a listen: http://www.npr.org/2013/06/18/192765776/study-teacher-prep-programs-get-failing-marks

June 18, 11:54 am | [comment link]
2. Militaris Artifex wrote:

My personal opinion, based on both my own experience as a student starting in the first grade in 1951, strongly suggests that Arthur Levine has touched upon a (if not the) core of the problem:

We can’t decide whether it’s a craft or a profession. Do you need a lot of education as you would in a profession, or do you need a little bit and then learn on the job, like a craft? I don’t know of any other profession that’s so uncertain about how to educate their professionals.”

Most education is actually some mix of both craft and profession. When I was in school, teachers, at least at the secondary level (i.e., about grades 9 through 12) had a teaching major, and often a minor, covering the subject areas they expected to teach. This would ideally give them a solid understanding of that subject matter. They also had something like a year of “student teaching,” wherein they learned and got repetitive exercise, under the supervision of an experienced teacher, in developing the skills required to impart knowledge to students.

Today, we have, at least in my home state of Washington, as system in which teachers who wish to remain employed as such are required to obtain an advanced degree, (which requirement is also used to justify higher teacher salaries). But they don’t get advanced degrees in the academic discipline which they teach. Rather they earn first a Master’s degree, then perhaps also a Ph. D., in the teaching of that subject. So the career teacher of Physics doesn’t have one or two advanced degrees in Physics. Rather, he has such a degree (or degrees) in “Physics Education.”

Inasmuch as teaching is not predominantly about knowing the subject matter, but equally about having the skills to impart that knowledge to others, I would suggest that it is heavily dependent upon the development of an effective set of interpersonal communication skills. And developing such a skill set is, without question a matter for training, irrespective of what additional education might be warranted.

The good Mr. Levine is apparently unable to see that both approaches are necessary. And I doubt, given the bargain with the devil made some few decades ago to tie salaries to “advanced degrees,” I have strong doubts that the teacher’s unions would be all that willing to return to a system that worked demonstrably better than the system which we now have.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

June 19, 1:02 pm | [comment link]
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