Arne Duncan: Colleges of education must improve
Said President Obama’s education secretary, in a speech Friday:
So I think that teaching should be one of our most revered professions, and teacher preparation programs should be among a university's most important responsibilities.
But unfortunately that is not the case today. In far too many universities, education schools are the neglected stepchild. Often they don't attract the best students or faculty. The programs are heavy on educational theory--and light on developing core area knowledge and clinical training under the supervision of master teachers.
Generally, not enough attention is paid to what works to boost student learning--and student teachers are not trained in how to use data to improve their instruction and drive a cycle of continuous improvement for their students. Many ed schools do relatively little to prepare students for the rigor of teaching in high-poverty and high-need schools.
In all but a few states, education schools act as the Bermuda Triangle of higher education—students sail in but no one knows what happens to them after they come out. No one knows which students are succeeding as teachers, which are struggling, and what training was useful or not.
While I appreciate Secretary Duncan's comments about teacher preparation being a university wide responsibility, it is very disappointing to see another diatribe being launched against colleges of education as if they conformed to a "one size fits all" model.
Most reputable, nationally ranked colleges with which I am familiar are very rigorous in terms of ensuring students have clinical experiences in high poverty schools, collecting systemic data on outcomes related to student achievement (required for NCATE accreditation) and focusing on student learning by increasing subject matter knowledge. Perhaps Secretary Duncan should ask his staff to conduct more thorough research to differentiate strong colleges from weak ones on these critical variables before his next national speech.
The field deserves better from the Obama administration than to hear the same tired arguments we heard from the Bush administration. Real and necessary improvements can only be achieved through honest and meaningful conversations based on empirical evidence from effective teacher education programs across the nation.
(Photo from chicagotribune.com)