The NCTQ Review of Teacher Prep in the University System of Georgia is Feeble & Incompetent

The NCTQ Review of Teacher Prep in the University System of Georgia is Feeble & Incompetent.

In this post I’m going to explain why I conclude that the NCTQ Review of Teacher Prep of the University System of Georgia colleges and universities that offer teacher education is feeble & incompetent.

Figure 1. Map of Teacher Preparation Institutions in Georgia
Figure 1. Map of Teacher Preparation Institutions in Georgia.  The NCTQ Review of Teacher Preparation Did Not Even Come Close to Reviewing the Status of Teacher Prep in the Peach State.

I am Professor Emeritus of Science Education at Georgia State University. I was professor at GSU for 33 years, from 1969 – 2003. For the past 11 years I’ve blogged at The Art of Teaching Science, as well as written two editions of The Art of Teaching Science (Library Copy), and the second edition of Science as Inquiry (Library Copy).

While at GSU, I collaborated with colleagues across the university and with school districts in the greater Atlanta area to design several teacher education programs. The first program, the Phase Program for Secondary Science was a one year full-time certification program designed for students with degrees in science.

Starting in 1988, I worked with other professors in the College of Education to develop the first alternative teacher prep program in Georgia. The alternative certification program (ACP) was funded by the Professional Standards Commission from 1988 – 1993. Based on our experiences in the ACP, we designed a mathematics and science teacher preparation program for students with degrees in math, science or engineering.

In 1993, the Teacher Education Environments in Mathematics and Science (TEEMS) program was created as a four semester program beginning with an intensive summer institute followed by internships in a middle school, followed by a high school.  Students were assigned to schools in clusters of 10 – 20 students, and each worked with mentor teachers and professors and graduate interns for two semesters.  Students completed their graduate work in summer 2, and began their teaching careers in the fall.  In a few years, English education and Social studies education became part of the TEEMS teacher prep model.  It is the primary program for preparing secondary teachers at Georgia State University.

I also was involved in designing graduate hybrid courses at GSU for teachers that combined online learning with face-to-face.  In our earliest work, in the early 1990s,  we were using Macintosh SE 20 computers and very crude telecommunications system.

In the late 1980s, we began a collaboration with educators, researchers and teachers in the Soviet Union, and out of a long series of collaborations, developed the Global Thinking Project, one of the first telecommunications projects linking schools in the U.S. with schools in the Soviet Union.  We designed teacher preparation institutes and brought teachers from the U.S., Russia, Spain, Australia, and the Czech Republic to Atlanta for hands-on and face-to-face experiences using the Global Thinking curriculum materials, and the technology that was essential to global collaboration.

That said, here is my first analysis of the NCTQ Review of Teacher Prep.

NCTQ’s Numbers Don’t Add Up

The National Council of Teacher Quality released its review of teacher prep programs in the United States.  It has reported on teacher prep programs in every state in the country.  It’s review was based on examining course catalogues and course syllabi, when they could get them.

NCTC claims that its method will show the quality of teacher preparation programs around the country.  Although I don’t think their review has much to do with quality, let’s forgo quality, and take a look at quantity.  Do they present a valid display of teacher education options as they exist today in our nation’s colleges and universities?  I don’t think they do.

To find an answer to this question, I compared their report on teacher education in Georgia to what I could find on documents that are available to anyone simply by migrating to the University System of Georgia’s (USG) website, and from there following links to each state university that offers teacher preparation program.

Table 1 includes data that I extracted from the USG website, and the 21 universities that support teacher education in the state of Georgia.  Georgia state universities graduate about 4500 teacher each year.  I’ve listed the top ten producing universities in sequence in the chart, and then I’ve grouped the remaining 11 into “Other Teacher Education Programs.”

If you are not familiar with teacher education in Georgia, the results might surprise you in that Kennesaw State University (KSU)  is the leader in graduating teachers each year.  It offers at least 19 teacher preparation programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  It is the third largest public university in the Georgia after the University of Georgia (UGA)and Georgia State University (GSU).  Yet, the NCTQ reviewed only one of KSU’s 13 programs, four of UGA’s 18 programs, and two of GSU’s 17 teach prep programs.

If you re-examine the data in Table 1, very few of the State’s teacher prep programs were reviewed.

 

Figure 2. Teacher Prep in Georgia in 2012 - 2013 in 19 University of System of Georgia Universities
Table 1. Teacher Prep in Georgia in 2012 – 2013 in 19 University of System of Georgia Universities

In fact, if we examine the teacher preparation programs in the University System of Georgia as a whole, there are 151 undergraduate programs, and 118 graduate programs.  This is a total of 269 programs, and the NCTQ reviewed only 39 of them (Figure 2).

What About the Other 6,000 Teacher Prep Programs?

If we extend this thinking to the nation as a whole, we find that the NCTQ has reviewed a minority of the programs available to people to become teachers. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) lists more than 800 member institutions (public and private) that offer teacher preparation programs.

If we do a little math based on data from the University System of Georgia, we estimate that there are more than 8,900 teacher education programs offered in the U.S. in early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education, special education, art, music, physical education, and gifted education.

The NCTQ reviewed 2400 teacher prep programs.  They claim that their review answers the question: How are the nation’s institutions that train tomorrow’s teachers doing?  Their report failed to mention that there are more than 6,000 programs that never were reviewed.

Figure 1.
Figure 2. Number of Teacher Programs Reviewed by NCTQ Compared to the Number of Existing Programs in Georgia and the USA

The results that NCTQ are touting as reporting on the status of the nation’s teacher preparation programs is a sham.  The NCTQ method is described here. According to NCTQ they posted rankings of 1,1612 teacher prep programs in 1,127 public and private institutions of higher education.  If my research, as reported above is correct, there are even more teacher prep programs in the nation than I had reported.  Using the NCTQ figures, a fair estimate would be that there are nearly 10,000 teacher prep programs around the country.  The NCTQ is very specific about what it defines as a teacher prep program.  Table 2 is a list of 11 programs that were reviewed by NCTQ.  But notice the specificity of each program.  For example, the first one is a Master of Arts in Teaching program at Clayton State in English education.  There are also separate programs MA in Teaching programs in mathematics, science, and social studies.

The NCTQ does not even come close to reviewing the state of teacher preparation in Georgia.  My assumption, based on data collected in Georgia, that the low rate of teacher prep review exists in each other state in the nation.

Table 2. Examples of Teacher Prep programs in Georgia reviewed by the NCTQ
Table 2. Examples of Teacher Prep programs in Georgia reviewed by the NCTQ

NCTQ Review is Junk Science, Not an Honest Review of Teacher Prep

Figure 3. Pie Chart Showing How Little of Teacher Prep in Georgia was reviewed by the NCTQ.
Figure 3. Pie Chart Showing How Little of Teacher Prep in Georgia was reviewed by the NCTQ.

Although I focused only on teacher preparation in Georgia, and have shown that the NCTQ Review is not representative of the range and depth of teacher preparation. The NCTQ method is a sorry example of “research.” I evaluated the method of the 2013 NCTQ Review, and found that the NCTQ was an example of junk science, based on M.S. Carolan’s research on junk science.  The NCTQ assumes that teacher prep is failing, and looks to support this view.  The data are circumspect.  The method involves using legal maneuvers to get data from universities, and not seeking data in a collaborative way.  It’s references are meager, and none of their work is based on the large body of work in teacher preparation.  Their review is non-peer reviewed.  There are only a few teacher educators involved in the NCTQ.

The NCTQ review is not a valid review of teacher preparation.  It is anemic and incompetent, as we see in Figure 3.

What are your views on the status of teacher prep in Georgia or in other states?

National Council for Teacher Quality Teacher Prep Review: A Stacked Deck?

Screen-Shot-2012-04-05-at-9.10.20-AMNational Council for Teacher Quality Review: A Stacked Deck?  In this post I am going to show that the make up of the NCTQ review of teacher prep panels represents a “stacked deck.”  Instead of working with teacher educators directly, the NCTQ uses deceptive and inadequate methods to investigate teacher prep.

Who are these people who have signed on to participate in this type of review?  What is in it for them?

If you were to design a study of the medical profession, do you think it would be a good idea to involve directly and in significant proportions professionals who are out there practicing medicine, whether they are physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, technicians, and the many other professionals who make up the medical field?

Would include visits to clinics, “doctors” offices, hospitals and labs, or would you rely on websites, and documents as the data for your investigation? Who would you ask to check your report before it was published?

The NCTQ has appointed itself as the evaluator-in-chief of teacher preparation in the nation’s public and private colleges and universities, and those few alternative teacher prep programs.   The group, which was created as a spin-off of the Thomas Fordham Foundation has used spurious methods to acquire information that they used to write a review of the nation’s teacher preparation infrastructure.

In general, teacher prep is carried out in hundreds of the nation’s public and private colleges and universities.  The NCTQ has created a partnership with many private foundations and corporations that support them (including the Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, & Walton Foundation) and the U.S. News and World Report.  They did not visit the universities to become involved in the clinical approaches to teacher prep that permeate teacher education. Instead, they used university catalogs, and course syllabi (when can get them) as their data source.

Rather doing a scientific inquiry into the nature of teacher prep, the NCTQ has launched an assault on the teacher education profession, much like the assault that is being made on American classroom teachers.

I wondered at first who was involved in the review, other than the big gun at NCTQ, Kate Walsh.  I was interested to find out who their analysts were, and what positions they held.  Did they include an adequate representation of teacher prep? Did the NCTQ hire analysts that had a direct connection to teacher prep in the nation’s colleges and universities. Or did they stack the deck with those that agree with NCTQ’s view that teacher education is inadequate and failing the nation’s public schools?

To find out, I went to the Who We Are page on the NCTQ website.  According to this page, the review team comprised ten in-house and 75 more general and expert analysts.  My analysis differed somewhat, as I found that there were more than 20 NCTQ staff working on the report.

The NCTQ Who We Are membership analysts include:

  • Technical Panel
  • Audit Panel
  • Advisory Groups
  • General Analysts

According to my count, there were 79 people involved in the NCTQ review. The first question asked was how many of these people were teacher educators?  Figure 1 summarizes the membership of the study teams.  More than 27% of study teams were employed by NCTQ, while teacher educators represented only 2.5%.  When we include administrators (some of whom were education deans), professors of education, adjuncts, only 17% of the analysts work in the field of teacher prep.

Figure 1. NCTQ Study Teams for the 2014 Teacher Prep Review
Figure 1. NCTQ Study Teams for the 2014 Teacher Prep Review

Teacher educators are like physicians, nurses or physician assistants. They see and work with students or clients (patients) in the real world. A teacher educator’s role is to teach, advise, and clinically involve undergraduate and graduate students in either initial teacher prep or the continuous professional development of teachers through courses, institutes, and degree programs. Teacher educators, by and large are also researchers inquiring into the nature of teaching and leaning.

Research scientists, mathematics or economics professors, corporate executives, philanthropists, consultants who own private educational companies or administrators are not teacher educators, any more than pharmaceutical drug reps are medical practitioners.

Figure 2 is a bar graph comparing the number of teacher educators who were directly involved in the NCTQ review to the number of non teacher educators. The comparison shows us that the teacher prep profession is greatly underrepresented in the NCTQ review.

Figure 1. Comparison of Types of Analysts Comprising the NCTQ Study Teams
Figure 2. Comparison of Types of Analysts Comprising the NCTQ Study Teams

Are the conclusions that are made by the NCTQ valid based on this comparison?

Figure 3 is an another bar graph showing the distribution of “professions” and organizations of members of panels identified by the NCTQ, e.g. Technical Panel, Audit Panel, Advisory Groups, General Analysts. The chart clearly shows that corporate and foundations executives and employees of the NCTQ make up the largest numbers of participants in the review.

Figure 3.  The Stacked Deck of Who Performed the NCTQ of Teacher Prep Review
Figure 3. The Stacked Deck of Who Performed the NCTQ of Teacher Prep Review

It’s not surprising that 22 of the 79 people listed were employees of the NCTQ. Many of these persons were trained to read catalogs and syllabi and to rate teacher prep against their own standards, standards that are not grounded in teacher education research.

There were a number of professors hired by NCTQ to lend credibility and ability. Why were most of them either professors of mathematics or economics, or research associates from one school (University of Oregon)?

The membership roles also include eight corporate executives and 12 foundation executives. When I looked more carefully at their bios, it was clear that they shared the same core values of NCTQ, and a number of them sat on each other’s boards.

The NCTQ website also lists the names of people and organizations that endorse the 2014 report.  A few superintendents are listed, as well a number of organization that support the corporate reform model that NCTQ and its sister organization, The Thomas Fordham Foundation work to push onto schools, and now onto teacher prep institutions.  You can see the list of endorsers here.

In the week ahead, be on the look out for reports written by other bloggers and educators on the NCTQ.

What do you think about the make up of the NCTQ panels?

Are the Deep Pockets of Gates, Walton, and Broad Contrary to the Ideals of Education in a Democracy?

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Creative Commons Deep Pockets by paul-henri is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Creative Commons Deep Pockets by paul-henri is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

According to the Foundation Center, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation are ranked 1, 13, and 38 respectively on the top 100 U.S. foundations by total giving.  The total assets of these three foundations as of April 2014 was $37 billion for the Gates Foundation, $1.9 billion for the Walton Foundation, and $1.6 billion for the Broad Foundation.

The total grant making in 2012 for these organizations was:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation        $3.18 billion

The Walton Family Foundation                   $423 million

The Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation           $153 million

If you count up the number of people who call the shots in these three foundations, here’s the math:

(Gates x 2) + (Walton x 6) + (Broad x 2) = 10 people

These three foundations are identified as the “Big Three Foundations” by Mercedes K. Schneider in her new book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education (Public Library).  Dr. Schneider explores in-depth how Gates, Walton and Broad grant billions of dollars to organizations that meet their personal views of what education should be in America.

Diane Ravitch assigns the “big three” to the Billionaire Boys Club.  No matter how you look at it, these organizations’ money and political influence rudder American education reform toward the privatization of public education, and Common Core State Standards-High-Stakes Assessments accountability.

To be sure, there are many other Foundations that give grants to a variety of organizations whose goals merge with the Big Three, but it is the Big Three that dominate the agenda of education reform today.

Education for the People, by the People

In this blog post, I wonder if the deep pockets of just 10 people can be consistent with the ideals of public education.  Most of you know that Diane Ravitch published her recent book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (Public Library).  On one of the end pages of her book she included a 1785 quote by President John Adams that I believe exposes the crux of the problem caused by the influx of money and influence from people such as the Gates, Waltons and Broads.  Adams is quoted as saying this:

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expense of it.  There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.

Adams would be shocked by the “charitable” behavior these 10 people.

The funded organizations that are identified on the Big Three websites are pawn’s or infantry sent into schools with lots of money, political influence, and carefully laid plans  to carry out the aims of the Big Three.  Although there are differences and some overlap among those who receive their marching orders from the Big Three, it becomes obvious what the end game is when you learn who is funded.  Let’s take a look at the Big Three.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

In an earlier post (Why Bill Gates Defends the Common Core), I reported that more than 1800 “college-ready” projects have been funded by the Gates Foundation over the past five years.  Some organizations have been awarded multiple grants, and in some cases, these amounts exceeded $60 million.  In the world of Charter Schools, Gates has awarded more than $279 million.  In teacher education, Gates has given millions to Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, yet very little in funding to improve teacher education in American universities.  In the research I’ve done analyzing the Gates Awarded Grants, it can be estimated that more than $2.3 billion has been allocated to the “college-ready” category.

If you look at the names of organizations that receive Gates awards, you soon discover how education is being shaped: charter schools, temp teacher training, common standards, venture capitalism, and market-based reforms.  Figure 1 identifies some of the organizations that have received grants, as well as the amount they garnered over the past five years.

Figure 1.  Gates Funding for Corporate Reform 2010-2013.  Source of data: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database
Figure 1. Gates Funding for Corporate Reform 2010-2013. Source of data: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database

Here the grant focal points for the Gates Foundation.

Charter Schools

When I searched the Awarded Grants site at the Gates Foundation for “charter schools” it returned 134 hits.  For example in 2014, the Pacific Charter School Development, Inc. received an award totaling $3,998,633.  They joined a long list of recipients whose total amount came to $279,428,324 (see Figure 1).  Gates gives more to support charters than does Walton and Broad combined.

Common Core

Without question, the Gates Foundation leads all organizations in the U.S. to develop and implant a common set of standards in public schools.  Achieve, Inc., the organization that wrote the Common Core State Standards in Math and Language Arts, and the Next Generation Science Standards received more than $36 million from Gates. But this is only a tip of the common core iceberg. To find out the extent of the funding for the common core is not as straightforward as you might think.

Table 1. Program Categories Funded by the Gates Foundation.  Source: The Gates Foundation Website.
Table 1. Program Categories Funded by the Gates Foundation. Source: The Gates Foundation Website.

Achieve is part of a network of organizations that have spearheaded the drive to set up a common core of subjects in American schools that share the same set of performances for all students.   As you can see in Table 1, the Gates Foundation funds projects in five program areas.  You will find common core projects in the US Program, Global Policy & Advocacy and other program areas.  For example, the New Schools Venture Fund has received more than $60 million from the Gates Foundation.  As a venture capitalist organization, “their investors are betting hundreds of millions on the digital revolution in the classroom. (NewSchools Venture Fund website, extracted, May 29, 2014).”

One of the grants NewSchools received from Gates was for more than $10 million “to support the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards and related assessments through comprehensive and targeted communications and advocacy in key states and the District of Columbia” (Gates Foundation Website, extracted May 29, 2014).

Implementing common core standards is a cornerstone of the Gates Foundation efforts to change American education.

Teacher Training

Teacher training is supported by the Gates Foundation through its grants to Teach for America (TFA) and The New Teacher Project (TNTP).  Based on my experience and research with alternative certification programs, these programs are at simply alternative ways to get people into classrooms, even while lacking profession teaching qualifications.

Is there is a similar plan to train élite college students in six weeks in medicine for the Doctor for America (DFA) program who will be hired for two years as paid doctors in local hospitals and clinics where they will practice medicine, even though they are uncertified? Medical and teaching projects, like these, set up a pipeline of inexperienced and uncertified college graduates to teach in American school, and bolster the over stretched medical profession.  Students in these programs need to commit two years, and then move up or out of the system.

TNTP is a step-child of TFA having been founded by Michelle Rhee, who was a TFA “graduate.”  TFA has net assets of $419,098,314 for fiscal year 2012.  It receives 76% of its money from grants and gifts, and 22.3% from government grants.

In a separate investigation of TFA’s and TNTP’s role in the Race to the Top (RT3), I looked at Georgia’s RT3 Program and discovered that these organizations were receiving $15.6 million and $9.1 million to supply uncertified teachers in the greater Atlanta area, where there is no shortage of certified teachers.

The language used to describe this effort is tied up in the notion of increasing the pipeline of effective educators.

From the RT3 budget is this statement:

Increase the pipeline of effective teachers through partnership with Teach for America in Atlanta Public Schools, Clayton County, DeKalb County and Gwinnett with the first class of new TFA recruits beginning in the school year 2011-2012.  Funding included in section E project 24: $15,6000,000).

A separate line in the budget points to the same kind of arrangement with The New Teacher Project, which will provide new teachers in Savannah, Augusta, and Southwest Georgia, for $7,568,395 million.

Although these two organization provide a small share of teachers to American public schools, that the Gates Foundation and the Race to Top programs support them is troubling.  There is already legislation that supports redefining a certified teacher that includes teachers that have received minimal education, and no classroom experience.  In areas where experienced teachers are clearly more successful, Gates and even the U.S. Department of Education (ED) ignores the research on teacher effectiveness.

What about the Medical program? DFA doesn’t exist, does it? But I wonder if such a program would be accepted by the medical profession and the local community?

Teacher Evaluation

The Gates Foundation in its funded Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) theorized that it was going to be easy to identify effective teaching, especially with the use of video tapes and student test scores.  As John Thompson pointed out on Anthony Cody’s Living in Dialogue website over on Education Week,

The MET is a $45 million component of the “teacher quality” movement which studies test scores, teacher observations, and student survey data to isolate the elements of effective teaching. That’s great. But the MET’s assumptions about the outcomes they anticipated have been the basis for Arne Duncan’s test-driven policies — which require test scores to be a “significant part” of teacher evaluations in order for states to receive waivers for NCLB. Then, as evidence was gathered, preliminary reports noted problems with using test score growth for evaluations. The MET has continued to affirm the need for value-added (VAM) as a necessary component of their unified system of using improved instruction to drive reform, even as it reported disappointing findings.

Even though researchers have shown (using Gates Foundation data from the MET Study) that there are very low correlations between teachers instruction with state standards and state and alternative assessments, policy makers ignore such data and believe that teachers should be evaluated using student test scores.  This study reported there is no evidence of relationships curriculum alignment and composite measures of teacher effectiveness.  And they reported that lack of relationship between Danielson’s Framework of Teaching (used to measure teacher classroom behavior), Tripod (student surveys) to VAM scores.

One of the groups that Gates funds is the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).  Since 2009, NCTQ has received more than $11 million in grants.  The name of this organization is an oxymoron, yet with millions in funding from Gates, NCTQ publishes biased reports on teacher effectiveness and teacher education.  In an earlier post I showed that NCTQ reporting is nothing short of junk science, yet here we have the billionaire funding such nonsense.

And then the Colorado Legacy Foundation has received more than $20 million to carry out the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) & pursue teacher evaluation systems using student test score growth.

The Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation made grants totaling $423 million in 2013.  According to the Walton Family Foundation website, its purpose in funding is to “infuse competitive pressure into America’s K-12 education system by increasing the quantity and quality of school choices available to parents, especially in low-income communities.”

The Walton Family Foundation funds school projects that shape public policy, lead to the creation of “quality schools,” and improve existing schools. The California Charter Schools Association and the Alliance for School Choice were the top two recipients of grants from Walton in 2013.  Coming in third and fourth was The New Teacher Project and Teach for America.

The focus of funding of the Walton Foundation is school choice and parental choice (parent trigger) as policies supporting charter schools.

 

Figure 2. Walton Funding for Corporate Reform 2009 - 2013. Data Source: http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/
Figure 2. Walton Funding for Corporate Reform 2009 – 2013. Data Source: http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/

 

The Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation

The Broad funding was $153 million in 2013.  The Broad Foundation, just like Gates and Walton accuses public schools of being in distress.  They all use the same statistics to claim that American students are not able to compete for jobs in a global market, and that corporations can’t find the “workers” who possess the skills  needed to fill their positions.  The Broad Foundation highlights the value of competition by the giving of various “Broad Prizes.”  The Broad Prize, and Broad Prize for Public Charters is an annual competitions among applicants.

The Broad Foundation also supports its Broad Residency in Urban Education and the Broad Superintendents Academy.

Each of these strategies is very much like the model used by Teach for America and The New Teacher Project.  These are part-time training programs that train college graduates in five weeks to be full-time teachers.

The Broad programs trains people to be principals and superintendents, who according to many writers, tend to be confrontative with teachers and their unions, and have no problem in closing schools, and then turning around and opening schools managed by charter companies.

The Broad Foundation funds in more than fifty organizations in four larger categories as listed below.  I’ve also included two funded projects or organizations representative of each grouping.

The corporate reform funded by Gates, Walton and Broad is a cobweb of organizations that has snared public schools by means of an accountability system that uses student achievement scores as the bottom line.  The web also includes organizations whose goal is to shape policy by writing and rewriting state laws that benefit vouchers, choice, charters, and teacher evaluation.

In the next post, we enhance the web by examining the machinations of the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

If education in the United States is to be for the people, by the people, these three organizations are the antithesis of public education in a democratic society.  What do you think?

Teacher Educators are Teachers First by Practicing What They Teach

Teacher Educators are Teachers First by Practicing what they Teach.

This is the first of several posts that will be published here about the art of teacher education.  There is a rich body of research on teacher education, and I will make use of recent work that shows that teacher education is a vibrant and energetic field that is being led by a new cadre of educators who are willing to get out there and do it.

Mike Dias, Charles Eich and Lauri Brantley-Dias are three members of this new cadre of teacher educators that will form the basis for this story and that is: Teacher Educators are teachers first: They practice what they preach.

For more than 30 years I practiced science teacher education, which meant that not only did I teach courses at the university, and I also taught science in K-12 schools, first as a science teacher in Lexington and Weston, Massachusetts, and then with being a professor at Georgia State University.  But there was also something that I found even more powerful, and that was the collaboration I had with practicing teachers and administrators.  As a teacher educator, I felt it was crucial that I worked in parallel with teachers in the metro-Atlanta area, and if possible to teach science education courses collaboratively with a practicing teachers.  Our doctoral program in science education attracted many local science teachers, and as graduate students, they worked as graduate teaching assistants in many of our courses.

Three of the graduate students, who would later go on and complete doctoral programs in education were Mike, Charles and Lauri. Michael and Charles were former students in our graduate science education program, Charles earning his master’s degree, and Michael his Ph.D.; Charles did his Ph.D at Auburn after completing his work at GSU.  Laurie did her doctoral studies instructional technology at GSU,  and was a member of the GSU faculty for several years.  She and Mike (her husband) have professorships at Kennesaw State University (GA), and Mike is a professor of science education at Auburn University.

 Practicing What We Preach

Mike, Charles and Laurie teamed up to organize a unique project in teacher education in which they asked more than a dozen fellow science teacher educators around the country to “practice what they preach.”  On a warm summer Atlanta evening, the three of them discussed Charles’ upcoming sabbatical leave after attending an Atlanta Braves game.  Charles had made arrangements to spend his sabbatical leave teaching eighth grade science in Auburn, Alabama, and at this informal gathering that night, that he work with Charles decided to study together his experience of going back into the classroom as a science teacher.  Working together, they “studied” Charles experience using quantitative and qualitative information.  Laurie played the role of the outsider prospective to bring further meaning and co-construction of ideas that emerged with Charles’ and Mike’s research.  Together they published papers about their work as teacher educators practicing what they preach.

Science Teacher Educators as K-12 Teachers

Then, Lauri suggested that the idea should be turned into a book.  Through the Association for Science Teacher Education, they put out a call for papers from fellow science teacher educators who would write chapters in a book describing their experiences practicing what they preach.  For more than two years they worked together with other teacher educators and produced a book that generated 16 unique accounts of science teaching at various grade levels, K – 12.  The book they published is entitled Science Teacher Educators as K-12 Teachers: Practicing What We Teach (2014).

I reviewed the book and found it to be a very important and astonishing autobiographical collection of papers written by our colleagues who in these pages took the risk of not only going back into the classroom to teach science, and to be transparent about their experiences by sharing their success, as well as the conflicts that they met with on their journey. (Disclaimer: I was the author of the last chapter of the book, which was the closing article).

There is richness in these reports, as well as creativity, and above all else, there is courage as shown by these teacher educators’ willingness to leave the safety of university life and immerse themselves in the world of K-12 classrooms.  Many of the authors took this step to find out how it feels to be back in a school in today’s classroom, and how this experience might affect their work as teacher educators.  Trying out inquiry-based reform, and constructivist approaches was also a central goal of most of the authors.  They also hoped that thoughtful reflection of their experience through the writing and critique of their chapters in this book would give the sureness and self-confidence to change their views and impact their university colleagues and their students.

The authors of these chapters described their experience through a process of collaboration and/or self-reflection.  Their immersion into the real lives of students and teachers showed the complexity of teaching, and in some cases, the difficulty in being successful in the classroom.  These were experienced teacher educators with strong backgrounds in science and pedagogy, yet they experienced a variety of problems.

In the posts to follow on the work of these teacher educators who choose to practice what they preach will lead us into the art of teacher education.  Teacher education, like medical education, requires people who have strong content backgrounds, and (in my view) they also need a stronger understanding of how to communicate with students, and how to choose the pedagogies that will help students understand, comprehend, and fall in love with the subjects that they teach.

This is no easy matter.  I look forward to telling you more about these teacher educators, and how their work can help us understand the nature of teacher education, and to provide research that outshines any of the critics of teacher education that seem to dominate the dialogue.

What Sort of Teacher Preparation Programs Does the Gates Foundation Support?

Did you know that between 2008 and 2013, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided more than $37 million in funding for teacher preparation projects?

What sort of teacher preparation programs does the Gates Foundation support?

Only 8% of these funds were awarded to university teacher education programs. Ninety-two percent of the grant money was awarded to corporations including The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and Teach for America (TFA).  Michelle Rhee, a former Teach for America cadet, and former Chancellor of the D.C. schools founded and ran The New Teacher Project.   Teach for America was founded by Wendy Kopp in 1989.  Rhee has two years of teaching experience, while Kopp has no teaching experience.

So, organizations whose heads have very little practical teaching experience are likely to receive funding from the Gates Foundation, while universities with qualified and experienced educators are not likely to receive much in funding.

As you see in Figure 1, ten institutions received funding for teacher preparation from Gates.  Only four are universities. There were 20 funded grants, most of them going to two organizations, TFA and TNTP.  In each of these programs, teachers are trained during a 5-week summer term, and then assigned to a school somewhere in the country.   Under these circumstances, school districts have a pipeline of new, but uncertified and inexperienced teachers to hire, often in challenging teaching environments.

The university grants are very small in comparison to the TFA and TNTP.  The largest of the university grants was awarded to the University of Central Florida to support its TeachLivE program, a simulation for teacher development.  According to the TeachLivE website, “it provides pre-service and in-service teachers the opportunity to learn new skills and to craft their practice without placing “real” students at risk during the learning process.”

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This graph is based on data from the Gates Foundation that appeared in the Education Week article, “Follow the Money: Gates Giving for Its Teacher Agenda“, November 5, 2013.

The Gates Foundation, which is the largest private foundation on Earth, believes that teachers can be trained in a summer camp type of environment, and immediately be placed in schools to teach.  Because many of the persons that are recruited by programs such as Teach for America sign up for only two years, in the long run, this approach to teacher preparation is not sustainable.  Suggesting that uncertified and in the long run, part-time teachers is a way to staff schools with effective teachers is unfortunate.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 7.52.23 PMTeacher education makes a difference in the quality and effectiveness of professional teachers. Clinically based, and constructivist oriented teacher education program are more effective than a summer program in which pedagogy is crammed into a five-week program.  I know this first-hand because I was involved in two summer teacher education programs at Georgia State University from 1987 – 1992 (The Alternative Certification Program and the AFT Educational Research and Dissemination Program-TRIPS) Although our programs involved mentor teachers, who also received training, the programs did not compare in effectiveness to the program that emerged from our experiences.  Out of our experiences in these two programs, we developed the TEEMS program, a master’s level, full-time, clinically based program for mathematics and science teachers.

In a Journal of Teacher Education article entitled How Teacher Education Matters, Linda Darling-Hammond reviewed the literature on teacher education programs and has this to say:

Despite longstanding criticisms of teacher education, the weight ofsubstantial evidence indicates that teachers who have had more preparation for teaching are more confident and successful with students than those who have had little or none. Recent evidence also indicates that reforms of teacher education creating more tightly integrated programs with extended clinical preparationinterwoven with coursework on learning and teaching produce teachers who are both more effective and more likely to enter and stay in teaching. An important contribution of teacher education is its development of teachers’abilities to examine teaching from the perspective of learners who bring diverse experiences and frames of reference to the classroom.

Post Script

In teacher preparation there are various pathways to becoming a teacher, including teacher education programs, alternative programs, or no program.  Based on a large study of 3000 beginning teachers in New York City regarding their views on their preparation for teaching, their beliefs and practice, and their plans to remain in teaching (Darling-Hammond, Chung, and Frelow), the researchers found that:

  • teachers who were prepared in teacher education programs felt significantly better prepared across most dimensions of teaching than those who entered teaching through alternative programs or without preparation.
  • the extent to which teachers felt well prepared when they entered teaching was significantly correlated with their sense of teaching efficacy, their sense of responsibility for student learning, and their plans to remain in teaching.
  • These are significant finding in the context of the drive to place non-certified and non-prepared teachers into classrooms that typically are more demanding and require more knowledge about learning and student development than these individuals can deliver.  The knowledge base on teaching is enormous, and to think that we can prepare teachers in 5 – 8 week institutes only devalues what we know about preparing teachers for practice.

What do you think about effort of the Gates Foundation to influence the way teachers are prepared?