How bad are our college teacher education programs?
A report from a group called the National Council on Teacher Quality has shocked the educational establishment and set off a firestorm of criticism.
The report judges as "mediocre" college teacher education programs in the US with some schools getting a recommendation from the council to be avoided.
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.
Programs at Furman, Lipscomb, Ohio State and Vanderbilt universities received the only "four-star" ratings, while some programs, including at George Washington University, received no stars, eliciting a warning from the council for prospective students to avoid them.
While debate swirls about the validity of the ratings of individual schools, there is broad agreement among educators and public officials -- from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to governors to unions -- that the country is failing to adequately train the 200,000 people who become teachers each year.
"We don't know how to prepare teachers," said Arthur Levine, former president of Teachers College at Columbia University and author of a scathing critique of teacher preparation. "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."
Many education schools suffer from the same maladies, Levine said. "Admission standards are low, no connection between clinical work and academic work and some of the faculty haven't been in a school for years," he said.
The topic has gained urgency, with new research that shows teacher quality is the single most important factor inside a classroom that affects student learning. As baby boomers retire, classrooms increasingly have newly minted teachers at the helm.
Yes, there are good teachers out there. But not many - certainly not enough. And I don't think you can "train" good teachers. That's a myth that needs to be debunked. You can train people who want to be teachers to be better at their jobs, but that won't make them "good teachers" - the kind of mentor that students remember for the rest of their lives.
"Those who can - do. Those who can't - teach." The age old insult resonates today, although in some fields like management, hands-on corporate executives can make excellent teachers. It seems obvious that some have a gift and most don't. In that respect, perhaps teacher education programs should be developed with an eye toward minimizing the damage bad teachers can do.