“Deans for Impact”: A Potential, “Teacher-prep Charter” Petri Dish?

The post that follows is a re-blog from Mercedes Schneider’s blog.  It documents yet another step in the corportization of U.S. Education–this one is directed at teacher preparation. Many education deans have signed up and joined a group called the Deans for Impact.  I am curious how many of the teacher education faculty at these schools are onboard.  As Schneider points out, these folks are enamored with using metrics, standardizing teaching, measuring the computer habits of potential teachers, and following graduates after graduation to find how much kids learned from them.  Oh, and of course they will use computerized, wearisome Common Core standardized tests such as PARCC.  Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk blog has a great piece about the concern that a superintendent of one of the nation’s most affluent school districts has to say about PARCC.  It isn’t very pretty.

Teacher preparation needs to be in the hands of practicing teacher educators, not Deans and former hedge fund managers.  This is no different from our thinking about K-12 education.  Real teaching and learning is created by professional teachers working with colleagues to bring the best and most interesting experiences to their students.  Teacher preparation is no different.

I was very pleased to note that after visiting the Deans for Impact website that Georgia State University, where I am Emeritus Professor of Science Education, was NOT among the list of membership schools.  If I were a faculty member at any of the membership schools, I would be giving the dean a call.

Here is Mercedes Sneider’s blog post: Deans for Impact”: A Potential, “Teacher-prep Charter” Petri Dish?

Benjamin Riley has started a new organization called Deans for Impact. The goal is to streamline teacher preparation to produce ever-higher student test scores. Members agree to be “data driven” and to use “common metrics and assessments.” Why, Deans for Impact are even considering incorporating value-added into their measures of “teacher effectiveness.”

And, oh, yes, member deans agree to be “transparent and accountable.” A bumper sticker for corporate reform. How novel.

Wait– there’s more:

These deans are going to “identify a common understanding of what educators should know and be able to do by the time they finish their training.”

Teacher-prep Common Core?

Sounds like Deans for Impact is decidedly on its way to becoming standardized– the clarion call of all that touches K12 education according to corporate reform.

read more… “Deans for Impact”: A Potential, “Teacher-prep Charter” Petri Dish?.

What’s Common Here: Teacher Education, Authoritarian Reform, Poverty, & Charter Schools?

In this first blog post in nearly two months, I want to introduce you to four areas of inquiry that have been explored on this blog over the past 10 years.

Over the next month, I’ll be uploading links to landing pages, each of which is a kind of inquiry or an investigation of themes that appeared on the Art of Teaching Science Blog.

Inquiries

The first four areas of inquiry are up on the blog website, and they are:

  • Assault on Teacher Education:  The assault on teacher education is being led by neoliberal and conservative ideologues who want to de-professionalize teaching, and one of the places to do this is by attacking the nation’s colleges and universities that prepare teachers.
  • Authoritarian Reform: In this inquiry, I am going to explore another movement that has historically played a role to oppose corporate, authoritarian, un-democratic, and right-wing policies and beliefs, and that is the work and wish of progressives, who have played a role in American history, starting with the American revolution.
  • Effect of Poverty on Learning:  There are bloggers and researchers who understand the nature of poverty and its effects, and why journalists, bureaucrats, politicians, corporate executives, and the billionaire boys club reformers either whitewash or simply avoid the problem. In fact, we have entered a period of “no excuses education,” which is held up as the option of “choice,” especially for families living in poor communities.
  • Charter Schools: In Whose Interest?:  Charter schools are seen as a cure-all to raise test scores of American students. It kind of like a philosopher’s stone, or a 19th century elixir, to serve as an antidote for the ills of traditional public schools. Many policymakers are motivated by the delusion that choice and competition are the answers to solving problems facing our schools.  In this inquiry, we’ll explore the underlying rationale for charter schools (the rationale has moved from one of true curriculum development by teachers, to a cash cow for charter management companies). When you look carefully at charter schools, they do not offer the kind of choice they claim in press releases and other public statements.

Future inquiries include:

  • High Stakes Testing and Teacher Evaluation
  • The National Council on Teacher Quality & the Art fox Ineptness
  • Politics and Influence Peddling
  • Progressive Pedagogy
  • Questioning Standards-Based Education
  • Stealth Appearances of Intelligent Design

Welcome back to the Art of Teaching Science blog.

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.

The Art of Mingling Practice and Theory in Teaching

This article is the Fourth in a series on The Artistry of Teaching.  

In 1896, the laboratory school of the University of Chicago opened its doors under the directorship of John Dewey (Fishman and McCarthy 1998).  Dewey’s idea was to create an environment for social and pedagogical experimentation.  Theory and practice should mingle, and the laboratory school as Dewey conceived it would be a place for teachers to design, carry out, reflect on, and test learner-centered curriculum and practice.

What is the relationship between practice and theory, and how does this relationship relate to artistry in teaching?

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

If you can’t explain it to six-year-old, then you don’t understand it yourself

enstein_on_bikeIn my career as a science teacher educator, I valued both practice and theory.  But in my day-to-day work with people who wanted to be teachers, it was important to give a balance between practice and theory.  Indeed, in the first secondary science teacher preparation program that I had a part in designing, we engaged students in this program who held degrees in biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and engineering with students in elementary, middle and high school during their one-year program.  As Einstein also said, “if you can’t explain it to six year old, then you don’t understand it yourself.”

So, early in the student’s first quarter at Georgia State University, they found themselves co-teaching in an elementary school working with students ranging in age from 6 – 11.  We believed that if students in teacher preparation programs were going to appreciate and value educational theory, then they had to start from the practical, day-to-day experiences of elementary age students and their teachers.  In the “Science Education Phase” program, teacher education students followed the first term with an internship in a middle school teaching students ages 12 – 14, and then in the third “Phase” they did a full internship in a high school in metro-Atlanta.  The Phase Program, which was implemented from 1970 – 1983 prepared science and engineering majors to be secondary science teachers (grades 7 -12).

Because of the range of experiences with K-12 students that these teacher education students had, it was possible to mingle practice and theory, and help them construct personal and social knowledge about teaching and learning.

In Powerful Teacher Education: Lessons from Exemplary Programs, researcher Linda Darling-Hammond focused on identifying good (powerful) teacher education programs.  According to Darling-Hammond, they are rare.  In their research, seven programs were selected for intensive study (she makes the comment that there were many other candidates).  Case studies were written for Alverno College in Milwaukee; Bank Street College in New York City; Trinity University in San Antonio; the University of California at Berkeley; the University of Southern Maine near Portland; the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; and Wheelock College in Boston.  All of these programs “mingled practice and theory,” were characterized as learning-centered and learner-centered, as well as being clinically based.

Indeed, one of the characteristics of these teacher education programs was that the curriculum linked theory and practice, and one was not more important than the other.  In successful programs, which typically take more than a year of graduate work, there is a to and fro, back and forth between courses and field work.  The programs were also based on the idea that students build knowledge about teaching, and construct meaning from experience (observation, co-teaching, teaching), reflection, advanced study of pedagogy.

In the science education teacher preparation experiences at Georgia State University, students were immersed in a program that valued practical, field-based experiences and experiential learning in university courses.  Our theory of teacher preparation was to mingle practice and theory.  And, we believed that we should move in the direction of practice to theory, not the other way around.  We accomplished this in the TEEMS Program (Teacher Education Environments in Mathematics & Science) which was inaugurated in 1994 and is the teacher education program for secondary teachers at GSU.

In the past, students took education courses, and then “practiced” what they learned during student teaching.

Little to No Mingling in Teach for America

This antiquated approach, however, is exactly how the Teach for America program trains candidates for teaching.  Most of the TFA graduates then are placed in schools in urban or rural areas, in schools that could benefit much more with experienced and wise teachers.  There is not enough time for TFA to advocate a powerful program that mingles practice with theory.  They are exposed in 5 weeks to education methods and then parachuted into schools unprepared for the realities they will face.

It is one of the great tragedies of contemporary teacher education, that the Teach for America program prepares so many teachers, most of whom do not have a commitment to the teaching profession, but instead use these experiences as stepping-stones to something else, and on the backs of many citizens in poor neighborhoods.

Teacher education programs that provide intensive preparation over time actually challenge students intellectually while helping them learn hands-on approaches that help K-12 students learn (Darling-Hammond).

Back to School

One criticism of teacher education programs is that they are staffed with Ph.Ds that know only about theory, and little about practice.

Disclaimer:  I was one of those teacher educators for over thirty years, and I must say that my colleagues were very experienced in the practical realities of the K-12 environment.  I guess we had bad press.  But that should change.  Read on.

IMG_0173In a research project which was just published by Michael Dias, Charles Eick, and Laurie Brantley-Dias, entitled Science Teacher Educators as K-12 Educators: Practicing What We Teach, sixteen science educators went back to school and wrote important and astonishing autobiographical papers about their experience.  They all stepped away from their role as a science teacher educator and entered the world of K-12 teaching. They immersed themselves into the real lives of students and teaching, and in this process, experienced the complexity of teaching, and in some cases the difficulty in being successful in the classroom.  The project was the brainchild of Mike Dias, Charles Eick and Lauri Brantley-Dias.

One teacher education researcher revealed, “I lacked the essential knowledge that contributed to my immediate failure as urban, low-track science teacher.”  Another colleague found that because students were not used to doing hands-on activities, they became too excited leading to the breakdown of classroom management.  Another teacher educator realized that not taking into account students’ diverse backgrounds could lead to problems of mundaneness and disconnectedness.  And, another colleague points out that his biggest challenge was to take the content that he knew and teach it in a constructivist, hands-on way that very young students could understand (Hassard, J. (2014). Closing. In M.Dias, C.Eich, L. Brantley-Dias (Eds.), Science Teacher Educators as K-12 Educators: Practicing What We Teach (pp. 287 – 302). Dordrecht: Springer.)

So often teacher education is viewed as an ivory tower experience, with those preparing teachers having little knowledge or experience in real classroom actions and life.  No so with these science teacher educators.

There are 16 examples of teacher educators mingling practice and theory.  I don’t have the space for all of them, but I would like to highlight a couple of them here to support the importance of mingling practice with theory.  The following two accounts are based on (Hassard, J. (2014). Closing. In M.Dias, C.Eich, L. Brantley-Dias (Eds.), Science Teacher Educators as K-12 Educators: Practicing What We Teach (pp. 287 – 302). Dordrecht: Springer.)

Charles Eick: Realistic Teacher Education

IMG_0163Charles Eick gives us his insights into realistic teacher education, a model of teacher education based on the work of Korthagen and Kessels (1999), that draws upon constructivist and inquiry-oriented science education in which teacher education moves from practice to theory, instead of the norm for teacher education in which prospective teachers learn theory and strategies first, followed by practice during internships and student teaching.  In reality, theory and practice are entwined, and Charles provides ample evidence of this.

Charles Eick asked Michael Dias, from Kennesaw State University, to work with him as the lead collaborator in documenting his experience in the classroom.  The Eick/Dias collaboration provides a model for other science educators planning to return to school to “practice what they teach.”

Working together reflectively, Eick and Dias were able to describe for us how they modified the curriculum to meet the needs of their students by including more practical activities, activities that characterized Charles Eick’s middle school teaching when I visited him more than a decade ago, and Michael Dias’ high school biology classroom.  Together they decided that activities and projects including problem solving, engineering, societal issues, and seeking creative solutions by means of technology and creative arts were just the ticket to engage the students.

One of the important aspects of this chapter by Eick, and the others is the goal of democratizing teacher education by encouraging the “mingling of minds” (Robertson 2008).  By going back to the classroom, these teacher education professors show a willingness to change one’s views on teaching, and perhaps move away from ”ivory tower” disconnectedness to the real fulfillment of teaching which arises from daily interactions with youth.

As Eick points out, this is an important aspect of realistic teacher education. Eick explains how perceptions change when one commits to a realistic teacher education approach:

We learn to accept that the classroom teacher is the expert in practice and we are the experts in theory on how to improve the practice of others to maximize student learning. They live in the ‘real world’ and we live in the ‘ivory tower’. However, when one has become both the professor and the teacher through recent classroom teaching experience, this arrangement changes. These traditional lines begin to blur. Teachers in the classroom begin to see you as having expertise in both areas. You have earned the respect as someone who ‘walks the talk.’ And this fact not only enhances your professional credentials, but also allows entrée into further school-based research, collaborative work in teaching and learning, professional development, and many other possibilities for innovative arrangements that benefit both school and university programs.

Ken Tobin: Students as Partners

Students have a source of wisdom that many teachers value in their own practice.  Research by Ken Tobin shows how collaborative self-study can mitigate the top-down reform efforts that as he suggests, “ignore structures associated with curricula enactment and seem impervious to the voices of teachers and students.” Tobin’s discussion of co-teaching (cogenerative dialogue or cogen) is a model that is relevant when we think of mingling theory and practice, but more importantly of professors’ willingness to learn from others who typically would not have been considered sources of knowledge about teaching–high school students and teachers.  And in Tobin’s case, it was a teenager from an urban school, whose population was 90% African-American, and many of them living in poverty, that provided a way forward.  Tobin is quite open about his initial failure as an “urban, low-track science teacher,” and as a result recruited a high school student (as he had asked his teacher education students) for ideas on how to “better teach kids like me.”  Respect (acceptance & trust), genuineness (realness), and empathic understanding appeared to be crucial aspects of the cogen activity that emerged from Tobin’s struggle to work with urban youth.  Tobin puts it this way:

 Although it took us some time to label the activity cogen we created rules to foster dialogue in which participants established and maintained focus, ensured that turns at talk and time for talk were equalized, and that all participants were respectful to all others. The end goal was to strive for consensus on what to do to improve the quality of learning environments. In so doing all participants would endeavor to understand and respect one another’s perspectives, their rights to be different, and acknowledge others as resources for their own learning.

One intriguing notion to take away from Ken’s research was his willingness to give voice—listen–if you will, to students. Are we willing to listen to our teacher education students?  Could our courses at the university level integrate the principles of “cogen” such that students voice is lent to determining the nature of syllabi, agenda topics, and types of investigations?  Should our teacher education courses be co-taught with experienced science teachers?  As Tobin explains, “cogen is an activity that explicitly values the right to speak and be heard.  It is also implicitly based on democratic values, and on the ideas of Roger’s theory of interpersonal relationships.  Being heard is a progressive or humanistic quality that can create an informal classroom environment enabling students who struggle in the formal straightjacket of the traditional class, a meaningful chance of success.

Return to Dewey

I started this article referring to John Dewey and his wish to create environments for social and pedagogical examination.  A contemporary science educator who speaks the language of Dewey is Dr. Christopher EmdinEmdin is an urban science educator and researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University.  His research on teaching science in urban schools focuses on Reality Pedagogy.

Here is a video of Dr. Emdin in which he takes us inside of schools to show how the practical realities of students’ lives can be a part of school science.  Here practice and theory meet in real classrooms.

Like Dewey, Emdin’s pedagogy extends beyond any existent approach to educating urban (hip-hop) youth.  Emdin’s approach is a biographical exploration of how he mingled theory and practice in urban science classrooms (Emdin, 2010).  One of his ideas that resonates with Eick’s and Tobin’s accounts is this:

Becoming a reality pedagogue not only requires an understanding of the hip-hop students’ ways of knowing, but also attentiveness to the researcher/teacher’s fundamental beliefs.  This involves awareness that one’s background may cause the person to view the world in a way that distorts, dismisses or under-emphasizes the positive aspects of another person’s way of knowing.  This awareness of one’s self is integral to the teacher/researcher’s situating of self as reality pedagogue or urban science educator because an awareness of one’s deficiencies is the first step towards addressing them.  The teacher whose students are a part of the hip-hop generations must prepare for teaching not by focusing on the students, but focusing on self.  The teacher must understand what makes her think, where the desire to be a teacher come from, and what the role of science is in this entire process”(Emdin, 2010).

Teaching is not tidy.  It involves a willingness to try multiple approaches, to collaborate with professional colleagues, and students to work through the realities of teaching and learning.  Mingling practice and theory is a powerful approach to prepare any professional, including teachers.

 

 

What’s the Formula for Designing Rigorous Standards for Teacher Preparation?

What’s the Formula for Designing Rigorous Standards for Teacher Preparation?

Read on to find out.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) published recommendations for Accreditation Standards and Evidence: Aspirations for Educator Preparation.  According to the CAEP website, “July 1, 2013, marked the de facto consolidation of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)making the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) the new, sole specialized accreditor for educator preparation.”

Who serves on this council?

On page two of the report is a listing of the CAEP Commission on standards and performance reporting.  Table 1 outlines the CAEP commission membership to revamp the standards for teacher education.  An analysis of the commission leads to some interesting statistics. The membership of the commission has a lot of administrators—deans, presidents, & superintendents, who make up 60% of the group.  Professors, the women and men that design teacher education programs and courses and are out with their students in schools makes up only 9.5% of the commission. But this is typical of national commissions in most disciplines.  The people making decisions tend not to be the “real” players in the field under consideration.

 

Figure 1. Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
Figure 1. Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
Commission Composition Number of Representatives Comments
Deans, College Presidents, Superintendents

25 (60%)

Largely Deans, but also College Presidents, & Vice-Presidents
Policy Advocacy Groups

4 (9.5%)

New Schools Venture, Fordham Institute, Alliance for Excellent Education, EDGE Consulting LLC
Professional Associations

4 (9.5%)

AFT, NAESP, ATE, NEA
Professors of Education

4 (9.5%)

No content disciplines identified
PTA

1 (2.3%)

Florida
School Boards

1 (2.3%)

Pittsburgh
Teacher, K-12

2 (4.9%)

Math & History/Theatre
Teach for America

1 (2.3%)

VP for Program Design

Table 1.  CAEP Commission Membership

From my point of view, the commission lacks credibility among the nation’s colleges that offer teacher preparation programs.  If we want to develop standards that are realistic and will attract a range of people into the teaching profession, then standards need to show the research and experience of teacher educators who are involved in the day-to-day activities of preparing teachers and conducting teacher education research.

Overloading the group with administrators, many of whom are far removed from the day-to-day actions of professors is a disservice to the profession.  Any profession.  There needs to be at least a balance on commissions such as these to include more practitioners, and researchers.  Personally, I would tip the scale in favor of practitioners and researchers.

Teach for America and the Thomas Fordham Institute are members of this commission, as well as three more advocacy groups, New School Venture Fund, Alliance for Excellent Education, and EDGE Consulting.  The fact that these groups are members of an organization writing standards for America’s institutions that prepare teacher is outrageous.  The Fordham Institute is a right wing advocacy group that has little use for colleges of education. But the real kicker for me was the inclusion a VP from Teach for America. Here is an organization with right-wing funding that has seduced superintendents and school boards with the idea that putting unlicensed teachers in the nations poorest neighborhood schools is a good idea. How does the CAEP leadership reconcile the position of TFA with their own about teacher preparation?

The report quotes a U.S. Department of Education Report on Equity and Excellence that says those who attend schools in high poverty neighborhoods are getting an education that more closely approximates school in developing nations, and now is a pivotal moment for the teacher education profession to reform itself.  But I smell some smoke here.

The same words to describe the standards for K-12 American education are found in the CAEP report: rigor, raising the bar, outcomes based, achievement scores, competing in the global economy, etc.

Providers, the name for teacher education institutions and the completers (students in the program), according to the Commission,  will benefit from the CAEP report.  Notice in the following quote from the report, the emphasis on data, better data, using better data, measuring and raising the bar:

CAEP accreditation will strengthen the quality of evidence measuring whether programs prepare effective teachers. It supports multiple measures. It judges programs by the impact that completers have on P?12 student learning and development. It requires providers to report their performance, discuss it with stakeholders, and use data to continuously monitor and improve their performance.

Commissioners are optimistic that advances in the quality of evidence are at hand, and CAEP must undertake substantial continuing responsibilities to upgrade the currently available data on which educator preparation providers and accreditation rely.  These involve several related activities to both develop better data and to use data better.

The Commission has set a high bar, ensuring that attaining accreditation status is a meaningful achievement providing a mark of distinction for educator preparation providers, and one that ultimately ensures that educators enter the classroom ready to have a positive impact on the learning of all students and prepare them to compete in today’s global economy. Council for Accreditation of Education Preparation, Commission on Standards and Performance. (June 11, 2013) CAEP ACCREDITATION STANDARDS AND EVIDENCE: Aspirations for Educator Preparation Retrieved July 16, 2013 from http://caepnet.org/commission/standards/

The Standards

5There are five standards categories as follows:

Standard 1: Content and Pedagogical Knowledge (Which is more important, content knowledge or knowing how to teach the content?)

Standard 2: Clinical Partnerships and Practice (Keep an eye on which partners become collaborators)

Standard 3: Candidate Quality, Recruitment, and Selectivity (Raising the Bar of Grade Point Average)

Standard 4: Program Impact (Value-Added Measures)

Standard 5: Provider Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement  (The Stock Market Analogy)

The standard categories have been part of teacher education for years.  However, in this Commission’s report, there is a creeping suspicion that teacher education institutions might be held hostage by this organizations acceptance of value added measures being used to “measure” the effect of a teacher’s preparation.  Institutions will also be held responsible for continuous growth.  How will continuous growth be ascertained?  Following candidates into the classroom and measuring their student’s achievement, that’s how.   Policy wonks have convinced schools that it the nature of schooling for achievement test scores to improve each year.  In an ecological world view, this is really not sustainable.  Isn’t enough enough?

Standard 1, which is about content and pedagogical knowledge is what arts and science professors, and content methods professors have struggled with for decades.  There is a great deal of research in their area of knowledge, but we must be clear about one thing;  simply knowing one’s subject is not enough to be a successful teacher.  Clearly, having teacher education programs in which candidates enter the program with a degree in science or history is one of the characteristics of some successful programs.  Another important part of teacher education with regard to Standard 1 is the collaboration among professors across university departments.  I do not mean simply professors of geology collaborating with their peers in science education.  I also mean that professors in educational foundations and special education working with their colleagues in curriculum and instruction departments.  And one other aspect that is important here is the involvement of elementary and secondary teachers in teacher education program courses, not just clinical experiences.  Having a high school chemistry teacher team teach with a professor of science education in a course on science pedagogy is a powerful approach to help “completers” experience pedagogical content knowledge.

Standard 2, clinical partnerships is another example of an aspect of teacher education that is well established in most colleges of education.  In fact, this writer, who started his teacher education career in 1969, was mentored by science education professors who already were integrating their “methods” courses with field experiences, and not waiting for supervised field experiences or student teaching.  But field experiences have become ubiquitous with teacher education programs.  Yet, there are multiple ways to carry out clinical experiences, and various stages of teacher preparation. 

One aspect here is that a single dose of summer training does not prepare teachers to work in our nation’s schools.  Yet, this Commission was represented by Teach for America, the organization that attracts high status college students for a two-year stint in teaching, and convinces school districts to place them in schools that probably need more experienced teachers.  How does the Commission come to grips with the TFA model vs the intense “traditional” model of teacher preparation.  

Standard 3, which is about the quality of students recruited boils down in this report to grade point average.  Grade point average has been used to bash colleges of education for decades by claiming that those who go into teaching probably couldn’t cut it in other fields of study.  On the one hand, CAEP urges that teacher education providers admit a pool of teacher candidates that show the diversity of the nation.  Yet, they recommend raising the bar (why should I be surprised) for candidates to an average of 3.0 GPA.  They also suggest that candidates at first be in the top 50%, and then in three years to the top 33% on national tests such as the GRE, SAT, ACT.   There is a lot of misunderstanding about the quality of candidates that pursue careers in teaching.  Although the average GPA of education students may be a tad lower than say students in arts and science at admission, the GPA of education students upon graduation is no different from students across the university.

Admission to teacher education should include quantitative and qualitative data and other sources of information.  Candidates should be interviewed by a team of professors across departments and colleges, involving those that have a stake in the success of teacher education.  This is not simply a job for the colleges of education.

Raising the bar only means that there will be more failures, and perhaps less qualified persons as teachers.  You should read carefully the rationale on this particular standard, and especially follow the cited research.

Standard 4, dealing with program impact is the standard that needs to be discussed in more detail than I will give here.  However, the CAEP Commission is clear that they want to use growth measures (including value-added measures, student-growth percentiles, and student learning and development goals).  Value-added and student-growth percentiles are not supported in educational research, and indeed, these metrics have resulted in protest letters from professors of educational research pointing out the fallacies in the statistical use of student test scores within the context of the value-added model.  To use the value-added model to assess beginning teachers and then use this metric to check and then rate (yes, is what will happen) schools based on a number is outright unethical, and invalid.  There is little opposition from colleges of education to evaluating their programs.  But lets not fall into the trap being set by reformers such as CAEP and NCTQ to use and favor quantitative data. Watch out.

Standard 5, deals with the provider having a quality assurance system composed of valid data from multiple measures and to make sure there is continuous improvement.  According to the CAEP Commission, providers must set up evidence-based quality assurance systems and data in a process of continuous improvement.  Here is what they mean.  The Commission writes:

Measures of completer impact, including available outcome data on P?12 student growth, are summarized, externally benchmarked, analyzed, shared widely, and acted upon in decision?making related to programs, resource allocation, and future direction.  Council for Accreditation of Education Preparation, Commission on Standards and Performance. (June 11, 2013) CAEP ACCREDITATION STANDARDS AND EVIDENCE: Aspirations for Educator Preparation Retrieved July 16, 2013 from http://caepnet.org/commission/standards/

CAEP is setting up teacher preparation providers for a league standings approach to evaluation.  By using data such as value-added and student growth percentages, CAEP will translate these numbers into ratings.  Perhaps, like their friends at the Thomas Fordham Institute, or the National Council for Teacher Quality, they will use grades on a scale of A – F, or perhaps they will be more creative and give out Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals.  Or, perhaps they will use the star system that is a favorite of many state departments of education.

In the end, instead of carrying out research that is meaningful, reflective and qualitative, CAEP and its corporate partners will steer us toward quantitative methods. They will use these invalid data sets in ways that will be detrimental to teacher preparation.

The kind of research that is needed is being carried out now, and has for decades.  In a forthcoming book entitled Science Teacher Educators as K-12 Teachers: Practicing What We Preach,  Mike Dias, Charles Eich, and Lauri Brantley-Dias and their co-authors reported on their experiences in which 25 professors returned to teach in K-12 schools for different periods of time.  The book provides a rich and courageous examination of teaching and teacher preparation from the trenches.  At a time when education policy and practice are being radically transformed by so-called reformers, this group of professors challenged present corporate model of education, and showed that teaching and teacher education is about collaboration, and that the research that in the end is most meaningful is qualitative and reflective, and not simply the collection of student test scores.

The CAEP organization has written a detailed report outlining the standards for the teaching profession.  However, there are serious concerns with the make up of the Commission, as well as the emphasis of using quantitative data in recruiting, preparing, and evaluating providers and completers.

What is your opinion of the CAEP Commission’s report on standards for teacher preparation.