NCTQ’s Assault on Teacher Education

In May 2012 and April 2013 I wrote articles on this blog about the National Council on Teacher Quality, and its haunting assault on teacher education.  In the May 2012 article, I reviewed the NCTQ’s study of assessment and how it is used in teacher preparation courses.  My assessment of the NCTQ report was to give them a grade of F.  In April 2013, I evaluated research “published” by Kate Walsh, head of NCTQ entitled 21st-Century Teacher Education.  The article was a preview of the NCTQ report on Teacher Prep, which claims to evaluate or rate nearly all institutions that offer teacher prep programs, except organizations such as Teach for America.  The NCTQ report is nonsense, and you can find out why by reading Linda Darling-Hammond’s article on National Education Policy Center blog.

This is a reprint of that April article.  The article was also published today by EmpowerEd Georgia.

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The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) is leading the assault on teacher education in the U.S.

According to the President of this organization “Ed schools don’t give teachers the tools they need.”

NCTQ’s president, Kate Walsh, has led the assault  claiming that teacher education has no real authority because it lacks specialized knowledge. She writes about teacher education, yet she lacks professional training in educational research and has no experience as a K-12 teacher or a university professor. Her writing is not peer-reviewed, nor subjected to kind of review and analysis that the writing is by educational researchers,  or others scholars in the fields of art, music, history, political science, computer science, mathematics. Scholarly peer review Most journals use scholarly peer review to judge professional work, such as in medicine or political science, and done by experts in the field of the scholar’s work.  Think tank “research” is typically not peer-reviewed, and it doesn’t matter whether the organization is on the left or the right of the political spectrum.  When reading reports that are non-peer reviewed, we should be cautious about the facts, principles, theories and conclusions drawn in these reports.

Leading the Assault on Teacher Education

Leading the assault on teacher education is NCTQ.

The NCTQ was created by the ultra conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in 1999.  According to Anthony Cody, we gain insight into the NCTQ’s origin from this quote from Diane Ravitch which Cody included in his article, “NCTQ Prepares its Hit on Schools of Education.”  According to Ravitch, here is what the Fordham Foundation thought about teacher education:

We thought (schools of education) were too touchy-feely, too concerned about self-esteem and social justice and not concerned enough with basic skills and academics. In 1997, we had commissioned a Public Agenda study called “Different Drummers“; this study chided professors of education because they didn’t care much about discipline and safety and were more concerned with how children learn and not what they learned. TBF established NCTQ as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated ed schools.

Screen Shot 2012-04-05 at 9.10.20 AMThis is not the first time that I’ve written about the NCTQ.  About a year ago I wrote a review of a NCTQ study on what teacher education programs teach about K-12 assessment.  In my review, I concluded that the researchers of the NCTQ study are stuck in a 19th-century model of teaching, and simply want to hold accountable, teacher education institutions to the principles and practices that teacher education rocketed through years ago.

In this blog post, I am going to focus on an article that NCTQ’s president, Kate Walsh published online at Educationnext entitled 21st-Century Teacher Education. The article includes one illustration of  a red “teacher tools” box with a very large lock with teachers standing near.  The teachers are unable to unlock the “tools of teaching” inside the box.

According to Walsh, Ed schools don’t give teachers the tools inside the box.  For a 21st-Century article about teacher education, don’t you think its odd to use a 17th – 18th century invention as a metaphor?

The article is full of opinion, and lacks any research basis for her views of teacher education.  Furthermore, the tone of the article unabashedly negative, and she seems to enjoy using violent and militaristic metaphors.

Yet at the same time, the article is important because it identifies the nature of the assault on teacher education.

The author of the article doesn’t hold back on her opinions of Ed schools. Here’s one comment that will knock you over. She quotes and agrees with a former employee of the National Institutes of Health, Reid Lyon, who would like to take the following action against Ed schools:

If there was any piece of legislation that I could pass it would be to blow up colleges of education.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, which is very close to several schools of education in Boston, this remark is simply outrageous.  (Full disclosure: I was born in Boston, and attended graduate school at Boston University)

Cherry Picking

Her assault on teacher education, beyond the bombing metaphor, begins with a cherry picking exercise in which she chooses a few sentences from a major research study carried out in 2006 by the most prestigious education research organization in the world, the American Education Research Association (AERA).  The major research project was Studying Teacher Education: The Report of the AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education, edited by Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Kenneth M. Zeichner.  Walsh claims that the research was written by 15 prominent deans and education professors, when in fact there were 25 authors and panel members, only one of whom was dean.  The authors are prominent researchers and practicing teacher educators.

Walsh assumes that thinking about right and wrong (directions, issues, methods, content) is the way researchers in this volume of research think.  They don’t.  But she does.  And this is a major dilemma in analyzing anything that Walsh and her think tank has to say.

She claims that the AERA report outs teacher education by publishing a report that will give “balanced, thorough, and unapologetically honest descriptions of the state of research on particular topics in teacher education.” But, as I said, all she has done is pull a sentence out of a report of more than 800 pages.  Here is the complete paragraph containing this sentence:

This volume represents a systematic effort to apply a common set of evaluative criteria to a range of important topics in teacher education. It is our intention to provide balanced, thorough, and unapologetically honest descriptions of the state of research on particular topics in teacher education as a field of study. For many of the topics we considered, this meant that we needed to find and acknowledge the considerable inconsistencies and contradictions that characterize the field. Our reviews were designed not only to note this state of the field but also to explain why this is so and to evaluate both the strengths and the weaknesses of different questions and approaches as we simultaneously identified promising lines of inquiry.  (Zeichner, Kenneth M. (2009-08-03). Studying Teacher Education: The Report of the AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education (Kindle Locations 230-235). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.)

Walsh has her own view of how teachers should be educated, and seems somewhat bothered by the depth of the research reported in the AERA study.  For the researcher, they’re interested in uncovering the nature of teacher education through inquiry, and then to use findings to document and encourage promising lines for further inquiry.  Walsh, beyond bombing schools of ed, has her own set of ideas that she thinks should be the substance of teacher education.

She claims that the volume demonstrates lack of credible research in teacher education. I don’t think she read the book.

For starters there are 12  chapters, and each chapter has between 100 – 200 citations, most of which are research studies published in peer-reviewed journals.  There is credible research in teacher education.  It might not be what Ms. Walsh wants to read.  For this book, all chapters “were vetted by scholars who brought independent expertise to the work and who had no stake in the panel or its report.”   Another words, it was peer-reviewed.  Walsh is not used to this kind of writing or research.  If she was, then her article as written on EducationNext wouldn’t have been published in any credible journal.

In the book, there are nine research syntheses that are used to highlight the current state of field in teacher education.  The “Executive Summary” which draws from three general chapters and the nine research reviews, might be valuable section of the book for “researchers” at NCTQ.

Teachers Should Be Trained

Walsh is upset with the fact that teacher educators don’t see teacher education as training.  (Disclaimer: I am teacher educator, and practiced teacher education at Georgia State University, Florida State, the University of Vermont, and the University of Hawaii for about 35 years, and I didn’t train anyone during that period, not even a dog).  She also objects to the concept or word “learning”, and can’t understand why teacher educators distinguish it from knowing real facts.  This is quite understandable, because she lacks the knowledge about how humans learn, and somewhere along the line missed out on a new field of inquiry known as the “learning sciences.”  Most teacher educators that I know and read embody the leaning sciences in their approach to designing teacher education curriculum, and teacher education courses.  The learning sciences is an interdisciplinary field that endeavors to further our understanding of human learning.  It is at the forefront of what teacher educators do, and unfortunately, Walsh doesn’t seem able or willing to entertain that thought.

Reading further into Walsh’s article, we find her take on methods courses in teacher education.  To Walsh, a methods course ought to send or give to the student what methods should be used to teach subject matter. Students should come into a methods course and be trained.  When Walsh found out that some of the top researchers in the field suggest that teaching is way to complex to be simply “taught” in courses based on a bag of tricks.

Walsh advances the achievement and authoritarian mentality of American education, and seeks to impose this view on teacher education.  Her conception of teacher education is simple when she talks about methods courses, and she seems bent-out-of-shape when she reads the research that the authors of the AERA research study report to us.

Teachers Should Not Be Trained

In an amazing chapter on the Research on Methods Courses and Field Experiences by Renee T. Clift and Patricia Brady, Walsh picks two sentences from their research, but reverses them in her article, and then doesn’t tell us the full context of the research.

Here is what is in the Walsh article about methods:

A methods course is seldom defined as a class that transmits information about methods of instruction and ends with a final exam. [They] are seen as complex sites in which instructors work simultaneously with prospective teachers on beliefs, teaching practices and creation of identities—their students’ and their own.”

If you go to the research chapter, here you will see how Walsh rearranged the authors thinking, and failed to give us the context:  Here is the full context and the two sentences highlighted:  (Note how she reversed the ideas.)

Across the four content areas, methods courses are seen as complex sites in which instructors work simultaneously with prospective teachers on beliefs, teaching practices, and creation of identities—their students’ and their own.A methods course is seldom defined as a class that transmits information about methods of instruction and ends with a final exam. Content-area researchers, often the course instructors, looked at multifaceted activities such as role adoption, personal relationships, and rationales for appropriating certain tools. Field experiences were increasingly connected to and embedded within methods courses and seen as extending coverage of concepts introduced in the methods courses. The field experiences provide prospective teachers opportunities to practice ideas or gain experience with concepts through small-group observations, tutoring, community experiences, and service learning in addition to observations and more traditional student teaching.
(Zeichner, Kenneth M. (2009-08-03). Studying Teacher Education: The Report of the AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education (Kindle Locations 9825-9831). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.)

The first science methods course that I taught was a collaborative effort with my colleague Ashley Morgan, who became my mentor at Georgia State University.  After finishing my Ph.D. in science education and geology at Ohio State University in 1969, I started my career in Atlanta, and the course I taught with Ashley was centered in the classrooms of an urban elementary school in Atlanta.  Any conception that I had that a methods course was a training exercise vanished after working with Ashley Morgan at GSU.  Students in our course had continual experiences with children and youth and practicing teachers who worked with them on planning, teaching and evaluation.  For the next thirty-five years I was involved in developing and directing alternative forms of science teacher education based on theories of humanistic psychology, constructivism, and experiential learning.  Walsh would certainly not endorse the work we did at GSU. And in fact in the NCTQ Report on Teacher Prep, undergraduate teacher preparation was rated at the one start level, while at the graduate level, it was rated with 2 and 1/2 stars.  How they came to this is truly amazing since teacher preparation programs exists in several departments, and at the graduate level, teacher prep programs are offered as “fifth year programs,” such as the TEEMS program, or as graduate work for practicing teachers.

Ms. Walsh doesn’t realize it but professional teacher education research, just like professional medical education research, has moved from a focus on general or generic teaching behavior, to thinking and learning about the context of teaching.  In the chapter Walsh refers to in the AERA report (Research Methods Courses and Field Experiences), the researchers examined methods of research in the teaching of English, mathematics, science and social studies.  Their review informs us that teacher preparation, just like medical education, begins with the beliefs teacher candidates have about students, teaching and learning and helps students explore teaching (or medical practice) to the “instructional, interpersonal, social, and historical factors that come into play one begins teaching practice.” (Zeichner, Kenneth M. (2009-08-03). Studying Teacher Education: The Report of the AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education (Kindle Locations 9839-9840). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.

21st-Century Teacher Education is the title of Walsh’s article, unfortunately, her view of teacher education set not in the 21st-Century, but more like the 19th-Century.  Teacher education is not the naïve view of Walsh’s.

Finding Teacher Education in the Marketplace

According to the NCTQ, students who aspire to teach should consider themselves consumers of teacher education, and using the marketplace model, they would be drawn to “high quality” schools.  The NCTQ wants to impose an “objective” measure of program quality.  Indeed they have the NCTQ Teacher Prep Review coming out in June, and it purports to rate teacher education programs across the country.  This new “consumer report for teacher education” will use admission standards, course requirements, content covered, how well students are prepared for the Common Core State Standards, the nature of student teaching, instruction in classroom management and lesson planning, and teacher candidates are judged ready for the classroom (Walsh, 2013.)  The NCTQ will also single out institutions that follow or track their graduates effectiveness on the achievement of K-12 student.

If this report is anything like the “study” they did of what teacher preparation programs teach about K-12 assessment, then it will not be based on critical research on teacher education such as the work of Linda Darling-Hammond in her book, Powerful Teacher Education: Lessons from Exemplary Programs.  This book was published in 2006, the same year that the AERA study was published.  I wonder why Walsh didn’t reference the Darling-Hammond book?

In Powerful Teacher Education, the authors name teacher education programs that have a long track record of preparing teachers who teach a range of students, and do it successfully.  In seven programs that they focus on, they all have the following in common:

an approach that prepares teachers to practice in ways that we describe as both learning-centered (that is, supportive of focused, in-depth learning that results in powerful thinking and proficient performance for students) and learner-centered (responsive to individual students’ experiences, interests, talents, needs, and cultural backgrounds). These programs go well beyond preparing teachers to manage a calm classroom and make their way through a standard curriculum by teaching to the middle of the class. They help teachers learn to reach students who experience a range of challenges and teach them for deep understanding. They also help teachers learn not only how to cope with the students they encounter but how to expand children’s aspirations as well as accomplishments, thereby enhancing educational opportunity and social justice.  (Linda Darling-Hammond. Powerful Teacher Education: Lessons from Exemplary Programs (pp. 7-8). Kindle Edition.)

Teacher education programs have embodied learning sciences research I cited earlier in this post, and so the field of teacher preparation is very different from that envisioned by the NCTQ.  Darling-Hammond, recognizing that teachers are not born to teach, and pointing out how complex and difficult teaching is, suggests that teacher education institutions must prepare teachers for “responsive practice.”  Finding out what really goes on inside teacher education programs was what her research was about.

The study that will be forthcoming from the NCTQ will not show anything about the real programs that they rate.  If they use the same methods that used in their earlier study, the new one will be written without visits to the universities, interviews with faculty or students.  And, indeed, NCTQ made NO Visits to teacher prep institutions.

One More Thing

Ethical and honest research in education more times than not brings to the surface conflicts and issues, that people like Walsh like to grasp and use as a weakness in the life of educational research.  Walsh is stuck in the very old model that the purpose of teacher education is train teachers to teach the facts of science, or math, and that Ed schools should be training factories turning out teachers who follow the orders from above to teach nothing but the facts.

The NCTQ‘s assault on teacher education is a well-financed effort whose goal is control teacher preparation, and take it out of the hands of professional educators, and turn it over to statisticians and politicians who want to ignore the rich field of educational research, and the work being done at many universities with school districts in their localities.  The research book published by the AERA that Walsh uses to degrade teacher education actually promotes a vibrant and powerful profession of teacher education.  Instead of blowing up Ed schools, we should be supporting efforts to explore multiple models of preparing teachers for our schools.

What are your conceptions of teacher education in the 21st-Century?  If you’ve read the Walsh article, what do you think of her views of teacher education?

 

 

 

Guest Post by Ingvar Stål: Humanistic Science Inquiry-Oriented Teaching in Finland

Note: This is the second post by Dr. Ingvar Stål, Senior lecturer in physics, chemistry, and science at the Botby Junior High School. In his first post, which you can read here, Dr. Stål gave us an overview of the Finnish educational system, which provides a basic education to all Finnish citizens ages 7 to 16, as well as a higher education.  In the first post, Dr. Stål helped us understand the overall structure of the Finnish educational system, beginning with basic education, grades 1 – 6, followed by lower secondary, grades 7 – 10, and upper secondary, 11 and 12.

Dr. Stål teaches at Botby School, Helsinki, Finland.  He conducts teacher training courses in science at Turku ( 92,6 miles or 149,02 km from Helsinki), School Resources.  He is also doing research in Science Education for his second doctorate at Interdisciplinary Science Education, Technologies and Learning (ISETL), School of Education, University of Glasgow, UK ( 1098,8 miles or 1768,3 km from Helsinki) under supervision of Professor Vic Lally.

In this post, Dr. Stål writes about the methods that science teachers use in Finnish classrooms by comparing the behavioristic teaching of school physics, which is teacher-centered (TCM) to the humanistic science inquiry oriented (HSIO) method, which student-centered (SCM).  This post is based on a research paper by Dr. Stål which you can read in full here.

By Dr. Ingvar Stål

In class, regardless of the country there is always a central figure – the teacher. The teacher knows how to work with students, in order to involve them in teaching process. The teacher is responsible for the organization of curriculum content for the students.  Therefore, the teacher must have appropriate education for this activity.

Finnish Science Teachers and Teaching

Dr. Ingvar Stål, science teacher and researcher, Botby School, Helsinki, Finland. Copyright © Botbyscience.com | Ingvar Stål 2008-2009

In the Finnish comprehensive school, teachers still have a respectable position in society. The education of physics teachers takes about 5 years and is carried out by local universities, and as additional training to obligatory specialization.

After this training teachers receive a Mastes Degree in a subject and a Teaching Certificate. For example, a teacher may have a Masters Degree in Physics and Certificate of Teaching in Physics at Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary Schools. In order to receive this certificate candidates must have at least 60 credits in Pedagogy Studies and Practice.

In recent years in the Finnish comprehensive schools there has been a shortage of Physics teachers. In the Finland-Swedish comprehensive school year 2008 only 57,1 % physics teachers had a Teaching Certificate [1]. There are several reasons for the physics teacher shortage: lack of candidates, preference to work as a physics teacher at upper secondary school due to problems with discipline and low level of curriculum content, low salary compared to the amount of work and responsibilities.

The common responsibilities of science teachers are as follows : teaching, preparation of lab work and demonstrations, ordering of material and instruments, design of assessment tests for students, maintain contact with students’ parents.

The teaching process in school physics is a teacher-centered activity. It means that the teacher is the presenter of physics content and students are the recipients.  In the Finnish comprehensive schools, the teaching of school physics and others school sciences is a variation of the three stage model of teaching: Initiation-Response-Evaluation (IRE [2]), and is described as the Teacher-Centered Model TCM [3, 4].
Continue reading “Guest Post by Ingvar Stål: Humanistic Science Inquiry-Oriented Teaching in Finland”

Learning to Teach in America: Pathways and Exits

Aspiring teachers can find their way to teaching in one of two pathways, teacher education programs (TE) at public and private universities or alternative programs, such Teach for America (TFA).  Although there are mixed results, there is little to no evidence that the Teach for America teachers are more effective than teachers who graduate from America’s teacher education programs at public and private universities.  Actually, the data shows that TFA educators might be less effective than America’s teacher education graduates.

Teacher Education Programs

According to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) there are 565 colleges accredited, and about 500 more programs that are not.

There is aknowledge gap when it comes to the public’s understanding of the nature of America’s teacher education programs.  All teacher education programs are local in nature.  They are developed by faculty at a local universities.  Faculty at teacher education institutions have built relationships with local public (and private) schools, especially from the standpoint of creating clinical experiences, and internships for aspiring teachers.

 

In a recent study by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the researchers found that graduates of “traditional” teacher education programs perform better than nontraditional (alternative programs) students on PRAXIS II.  This was a surprise in the sense that policymakers think and hope that nontraditional routes to teaching will help fill the teacher shortage, and these nontraditional students will be better prepared in content knowledge.  As the researchers concluded,

The myth that well-qualified individuals abound who would enter teaching and be effective if only there were no preparation involved is simply that— a myth.

Although the study used test scores to determine the characteristics of programs that were associated with licensure scores (PRAXIS II), the following results are interesting in their own light:

The study found that five characteristics of institutions and programs were indeed conducive to higher teacher licensure scores:

  • Private institutions outperformed public ones.
  • Universities outperformed colleges.
  • Teacher education programs with a higher number of traditional students outperformed those with fewer such students.
  • Teacher education programs with ethnically diverse faculties outperformed those with overwhelmingly White faculties.

In concluding, the researchers suggest that:

institutions of higher education are appropriate as sites for teacher preparation. The fact that so many of the institutions are effective suggests that it is not necessary to go elsewhere. Further, the study shows that prospective teachers benefit from a traditional college experience.

For more than 30 years, I was professor of science education at Georgia State University, and during that time worked  with all of these the school districts in metropolitan Atlanta, as well as many other districts around the state.  While at GSU, I was involved in the development and design of teacher education and alternative programs for aspiring teachers, taught staff development courses in several of these districts, and created in internships for GSU students who were involved in all of the programs listed below.

The kind of work described below occurs all around the U.S. in colleges and universities.  In her book, Creating Powerful Teacher Education, Linda Darling-Hammond presents the evidence that teacher education (courses, programs, etc.) matters for teacher effectiveness through case studies of seven teacher education programs.  The seven programs are distinctive, but as Darling-Hammond points out, were selected from a much longer list of outstanding teacher education programs, from small and large universities, as well as public and private.

Policymakers try and make the case that entry into teaching has “burdensome requirements” and that education coursework should be removed from teacher certification standards.  Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige made such a suggestion in a 2002 report. Reports such assume that teacher education programs today are not effective, and that the “bar needs to be raised.”  Darling-Hammond’s research suggests that teacher education programs are not only effective, but the model programs she studied in Creating Powerful Teacher Education, help us understand the value and effectiveness of the way teachers are prepared.

Paige’s report is indicative of the assault on teachers, and the way they are prepared.  The corporate premise, supported by the U.S. Department of Education, is that teachers are the problem, and if we could only weed out the bad teachers, schools, and program, all would be well with education.  The movement to try and link student test scores to teacher effectiveness by means of the value-added model does not even come close to describing what effective teachers do, and how they help students progress in their courses.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education has just announced that states can get waivers from the NCLB Law, but only if they raise the bar on expectations, and put into place a program that will tie student achievement scores to teacher evaluation, and potentially, teacher’s compensation.  But many states are skeptical, and questioning whether they will seek a waiver.

There is no compelling evidence to support these assaults, but right now ignorant and politically challenged policy makers and corporate deal makers trump professional educators. 

Teachers, to be effective need to have a strong base of content knowledge as well as a deep understanding of what works in the classroom.  In the research identified here, the clinical experiences that have emerged in the last twenty of so years in teacher education programs represent a major shift in the way teachers are prepared.

Clinical experiences are critical in teacher education programs to help teachers integrate their theoretical knowledge with practical experiences in classrooms over the extent of their teacher education program.  All of the programs that are described below were centered around clinical experiences in elementary, middle and high schools in urban and suburban settings.  Clinical experiences provide the experiential knowledge that teachers need to make decisions, to work with students who have learning problems, and to become aware of pedagogy that works with students in the classroom.

Combined with integrated university course-work and clinical work, teacher education produces, as Darling-Hammond points out, a “new kind of teacher.”

One who is theoretically oriented in her own right: aware of the learning principles that can be considered (and when appropriate, used) to guide practice, as well as the many contingencies that intervene and must influence decisions.

4 Examples of Clinical Based Teacher Education and Alternative Programs

The Phase Program (1970 – 1985) A field based science teacher education program for high school science, in which candidates interned in an elementary, middle and high school.  The program was field based, and the curriculum was integrated within three departments.  This program set the stage for future science teacher education programs at GSU.  Integration of the curriculum combined with clinical experiences was the symbol of the Phase Program.

TRIPS (1987 – 1989) The TRIPS program was based on the AFT Educational Research and Dissemination (ER&D) Program under the leadership of AFT’s Lovely Billups.  This alternative program recruited secondary teachers in foreign language, mathematics and science to teach in the Atlanta Public Schools.  TRIPS was a collaborative project among the Atlanta Public Schools, Georgia State University, Clark-Atlanta University and AFT.  TRIPS programs were initiated by the AFT in several urban settings around the country.  TRIPS teachers engaged in summer institute followed by teaching in an Atlanta high school in math, science or foreign language.  TRIPS teachers were assigned a reduced teaching load (4 classes instead of 5) and a mentor teacher, who also had a reduced teaching load. Each TRIPS intern was also supervised by professors from GSU and Clark-Atlanta University.   The reduced teaching load for TRIPS teachers and their mentors facilitated mentoring, and allowed the mentor teachers to engage in conferences, planning sessions, classroom observations, and reflective sessions.

Alternative Certification Program (ACP)  (1988 – 1992) A program funded by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission characterized by an 8-week summer institute followed by teaching in a public school and paired with a mentor teacher.  Mentor teachers were prepared through a summer institute prior to school year.  Although similar to the TRIPS program, this program was larger, and in the long run lead to the TEEMS program which is the secondary teacher education program at GSU.

The ACP began at GSU with a grant to fund thirty teachers (10 in each field) to attend a fulltime summer institute in Athens, Georgia.  Mentor teachers were prepared for their role for a one-week institute with the ACP teachers.  School districts from around the state participated in the ACP.  In the last three years of the ACP, three universities in Georgia received funding to prepare 30 foreign language, mathematics and science teachers.  The curriculum of the Summer Institute was based on pedagogical content knowledge in the content areas, special education, and foundations of education.  Since the programs were localized, bi-monthly seminars among the ACP teachers were held on the campus of each university (North Georgia College, Georgia State University, and Georgia Southern).

The TEEMS Program (1993 – present) TEEMS (Teacher Education Environments in Mathematics and Science) is a Master’s level program for science and mathematics majors with field based internships in middle and high schools based on a humanistic/constructivist model.  Aspiring teachers applying to the TEEMS program came from science, mathematics, and engineering departments throughout the Southeast, and brought with them high levels of content knowledge, strong interpersonal skills, enthusiasm, and a commitment to becoming a career teacher.  Each TEEMS recruit was interviewed by a team of professors from mathematics and science education faculty, and professors from science and mathematics departments.

The TEEMS program was based on the theory of “realistic teacher education” (Korthagen and Kessells) , an approach that goes from practice to theory.  As much as possible, theory and practice were merged with the intention of diminishing the gap between practice and theory.  This was accomplished by engaging students in real problems encountered by teachers in clinical experiences, both on campus and in classrooms.

The TEEMS program was based on these characteristics:

  • reflective and constructivist models of learning
  • holistically organized pedagogical curriculum experiences
  • learner-centered instruction in which students engage in a series of experiential and field-based experiences to learn about mathematics and science teaching
  • a partnership with the public and independent schools of Georgia by centering much of the instruction in middle schools and high schools

These four programs represent an historical timeline of the evolution of science teacher education experiences at Georgia State University, one university out of hundreds preparing teachers.  You would find similar stories at universities in Boston, Chicago, New York, Valdosta, San Diego, Los Angeles, Houston, and Dayton.  When you look closely at the preparation of teachers around the country, the programs are unique, and based on local conditions and relationships among the university and local school districts.  TEEMS was initially a mathematics and science program, but GSU expanded it to include social studies and English.

Note:  A year ago, GSU agreed to work with TFA, and all of the TFA recruits must follow a teacher education program at GSU—secondary teachers must enroll in TEEMS. 

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

Despite longstanding criticisms of teacher education, the weight of substantial 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 preparation interwoven 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.

In teacher preparation, there 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 not only devalues what we know about preparing teachers for practice.

Teach for America

Teach for America (TFA) is an alternative pathway to teaching that was started by a college graduate who felt that individuals graduating from prestigious colleges and universities might be recruited to serve urban schools for a two year stint in teaching.

The TFA program recruits individuals from elite universities, prepares them in five weeks, and then assigns them to teach in an urban or rural classroom as full time teachers.  Recruits are selected from universities across America, and placed in school districts around the country and agree to serve for 2 years.  The TFA is well funded, and recruits to teaching receive grants, and low interest loans, and receive compensation from the local school districts in which they serve.

If you go to the Teach for America website, you will find out that the TFA provides benefits to its recruits, including scholarship funds, and low interest loans to help pay off college debt.

When TFA recruits complete their five-week summer training program, they then are provided with moving costs to relocate to the urban or rural school district in which they will serve for two years.

As an Alternative Program, the TFA is not a new idea in the sense that Alternative Programs and Pathways to teaching have been part of the teacher education culture for at least half a century.  Harvard and Standford has Alternative pathways to teaching in the 1960s, and Alternative Programs became a prominent pathway to teaching in the 1980s and into the 1990s.  Prior to TFA, Georgia State University was involved in two Alternative Pathways, the TRIPS program, and Alternative Certification Program, both described above.

But what is different about TFA is that is well publicized, and well funded.  Over the past 20 years they have received millions of dollars of donations from a long list of donors. You might want to look at the list and note how these corporate billionaires are supporting TFA.

But what is problematic is that most TFA teachers exit the teaching profession at the end of two years.  So in urban areas of public education where stability and loyalty would benefit these communities, the TFA promotes instability.

In the next post, we will explore the question: What Does Comparative Research Tell Us About Teacher Preparation? 

What are your experiences with teacher education?  With alternative programs?  Do you think TFA is making a positive contribution to teaching?