Teaching the teachers

Having touted teacher quality as an important spoke of his reform wheel, it was only a matter of time before Education Secretary Arne Duncan took on the largest purveyor of teacher training: education schools. In two recent speeches, one at UVA’s Curry School and one at Columbia Teachers College, Duncan called them “mediocre,” explaining that student teachers don’t get enough hands-on classroom management training or classes on how to use data to inform their practice. In particular, Duncan wants ed schools to focus less on inputs and more on outputs, namely the achievement of the future students of the some 220,000 teachers graduating every year from ed schools. “Education schools act as the Bermuda Triangle of higher education--students sail in but no one knows what happens to them after them come out,” Duncan told Curry students. States like Louisiana have tried to remedy this disconnect by tracking student achievement for individual teachers back to the schools or alternative certification programs from which they graduated. More states should follow suit, says Duncan. Louisiana researcher George Noell explains that you have to look at the supply side of teaching: “Then you can make a link between who taught a kid, who trained the teacher, and the overall efficacy of that teacher.” That data can then be used to strengthen ed schools’ weak spots, or shut them down all together. This shift in focus from “highly qualified” to highly effective is certainly welcome, but there are still forty-nine states with many hundreds of education schools with a long way to go.

"Are Teacher Colleges Turning Out Mediocrity," by Gilbert Cruz, TIME, October 23, 2009

"Duncan: 'Revolutionary change' needed in teachers colleges," by the Associated Press, USA Today, October 22, 2009

Teacher Training Termed Mediocre,” by Jennifer Media, New York Times, October 22, 2009

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