Preparing and Training Professionals: Comparing Education to Six Other Fields

Michael Connolly

Katherine S. Neville, Rachel H. Sherman, and Carol E. Cohen, The Finance Project2005

The Finance Project, a D.C.-based nonprofit research firm, cites the failure of "traditional teacher preparations and in-service training . . . to produce the level of quality demanded by the new educational environment" (adding to a growing list of criticizing studies released this year, see here and here). The report compares training and professional development in education to that of six other fields: law, accounting, architecture, nursing, firefighting, and law enforcement. By highlighting how other professions address pre-service preparation, in-service training, and financing, ideas and practices are presented that might be used for teacher preparation - or at least expose the odd, convoluted, and flawed way in which individuals become teachers. We learn that, while most professional fields have fairly uniform standards and require a passing score on a national exam,  education has only disparate state standards. Many fields, including firefighting, nursing, and law enforcement, have programs that prepare participants for difficult situations they will face and place a higher premium on peer support and learning; but most teachers go through ineffective "student teaching" instead of being immersed in ways of meeting the special challenges of low-performing, low-income schools. Further, the salaries of architects, lawyers, and accountants are tied to performance, whereas teacher compensation is based on years in harness and completion of graduate courses, which has "a weak link between expenditures and desired results." Obviously, what works for other fields won't necessarily work for education, but the differences in professional development among them helps expose some of the fundamental problems with teacher training. You can find it here.

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