Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Preparing Future Teachers

From the Grand Rapids, Michigan Press, comes a story about Arne Duncan and what he thinks should happen for teachers and teacher training:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says teachers should be paid between $60,000 to $150,000 – but should be held more accountable.

Duncan also told the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards last week that it should be more difficult for prospective students to enter college teacher preparation programs.

The latter sentence is part of a bigger discussion over whether colleges of education in this country do a good job of attracting good students and if they are training them properly.   Indeed, a big worry expressed among some UW COE faculty about bringing in TFA is that if the COE doesn't step up and do better they could be shut down.   Some of the UW COE faculty seem to think the TFA training may be the training of the future for teachers.  
 Here's a lengthy article on the issue of colleges of education from the NY Times.  The article follows a new teacher prep school called Relay Graduate School of Education which doesn't have courses but modules which follow a different teaching technique. 

“The rhetoric is enormously heated,” Dr. Levine said, speaking from his office at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, where as president he helps universities restructure their teaching programs. “We have a group of education schools that are perplexed at why they are being so criticized,” he said. “We have states saying they are going to create alternate routes to becoming a teacher, and they are going to increase standards for the existing education schools.

“We are simultaneously trying to reform and replace the enterprise.”

Another program, Teacher U, was created by leaders of three big charter school chains.  Here's what one manager had to say:

Teacher U was founded by leaders from three prominent charter school chains — Achievement First, Uncommon Schools and KIPP — in part to provide a setting where their own teachers could receive master’s-level training that was tightly focused “on stuff that will help you be a better teacher on Monday,” said Brent Maddin, the program’s senior manager of teaching and learning, and Relay’s future provost.

That's a big echo of how TFA preps its recruits.  And shades of our own state's Professional Educators Standards Board in their review of UW COE's TFA plan:

Even the state-appointed team of university educators that reviewed Relay’s charter expressed concerns, though it ultimately recommended approval. “The institution must recognize the importance of scholarly activity in a graduate school,” it warned. “It must specify how it plans to support ongoing (rather than episodic) scholarly work by full-time faculty.”

What's the debate?

The debate mirrors a larger concern nationally, which is that by treating teaching as a trade instead of an art, and permitting new teachers to run their own classrooms from the first day, alternative education programs will, in the long term, reduce the quality of America’s teaching force. A great teacher, critics of the new approach argue, should also be trained in advanced work in his or her field, as well as be versed in child psychology, cognitive theory and educational philosophy, so he or she can work in any setting.

Relay seems to be teaching a "protocol" to teachers as does TFA.  If A happens, then you do B.  And everything is in service to goals, most of which are directly related to testing. 

Again, like the math debate locally, how about a hybrid?  I don't think this crash course in teaching is enough to become a good teacher.  There's a lot more to reaching students than knowing how to deliver a lesson.


dan dempsey said...

"if the COE doesn't step up and do better they could be shut down"

Huhh??? Considering the pathetic performance of the MEP at CoE ... and the fact there has been no change... why would any shut down occur?

University of Chicago dumped its CoE a long time ago. 90%+ of Education research is bogus.

Look at the Math Education Project at UW's CoE. The schools helped by MEP produce results that are abysmal ... but the MEP keeps providing advice to local school districts. ... The BIG Problem is that there is ZERO accountability for grants (other than keeping track of the spending). Grants that produce lower academic performance are of no concern to the powers that fund this nonsense. Thus UW MEP continues its assault on common sense.

Megan Mc said...

GOOD TEACHING: THE TOP TEN REQUIREMENTS By Richard Leblanc, York University, Ontario

One. Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It's about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. It's about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your students.

Two. Good teaching is about substance and treating students as consumers of knowledge. It's about doing your best to keep on top of your field, reading sources, inside and outside of your areas of expertise, and being at the leading edge as often as possible. But knowledge is not confined to scholarly journals. Good teaching is also about bridging the gap between theory and practice. It's about leaving the ivory tower and immersing oneself in the field, talking to, consulting with, and assisting practitioners, and liaisoning with their communities.

Three. Good teaching is about listening, questioning, being responsive, and remembering that each student and class is different. It's about eliciting responses and developing the oral communication skills of the quiet students. It's about pushing students to excel; at the same time, it's about being human, respecting others, and being professional at all times.

Four. Good teaching is about not always having a fixed agenda and being rigid, but being flexible, fluid, experimenting, and having the confidence to react and adjust to changing circumstances. It's about getting only 10 percent of what you wanted to do in a class done and still feeling good. It's about deviating from the course syllabus or lecture schedule easily when there is more and better learning elsewhere. Good teaching is about the creative balance between being an authoritarian dictator on the one hand and a pushover on the other.

Five. Good teaching is also about style. Should good teaching be entertaining? You bet! Does this mean that it lacks in substance? Not a chance! Effective teaching is not about being locked with both hands glued to a podium or having your eyes fixated on a slide projector while you drone on. Good teachers work the room and every student in it. They realize that they are the conductors and the class is the orchestra. All students play different instruments and at varying proficiencies.

Megan Mc said...

Six. This is very important -- good teaching is about humor. It's about being self-deprecating and not taking yourself too seriously. It's often about making innocuous jokes, mostly at your own expense, so that the ice breaks and students learn in a more relaxed atmosphere where you, like them, are human with your own share of faults and shortcomings.

Seven. Good teaching is about caring, nurturing, and developing minds and talents. It's about devoting time, often invisible, to every student. It's also about the thankless hours of grading, designing or redesigning courses, and preparing materials to still further enhance instruction.

Eight. Good teaching is supported by strong and visionary leadership, and very tangible institutional support -- resources, personnel, and funds. Good teaching is continually reinforced by an overarching vision that transcends the entire organization -- from full professors to part-time instructors -- and is reflected in what is said, but more importantly by what is done.

Nine. Good teaching is about mentoring between senior and junior faculty, teamwork, and being recognized and promoted by one's peers. Effective teaching should also be rewarded, and poor teaching needs to be remediated through training and development programs.

Ten. At the end of the day, good teaching is about having fun, experiencing pleasure and intrinsic rewards ... like locking eyes with a student in the back row and seeing the synapses and neurons connecting, thoughts being formed, the person becoming better, and a smile cracking across a face as learning all of a sudden happens. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to. Good teachers couldn't imagine doing anything else.

RosieReader said...

I did a quick google search and came up blank, but I'm pretty sure I recall reading that the "quality" of students who are getting teaching credentials has been declining for years, at least those for whom teaching is their first job after college. Of course there are always people driven to become teachers for all the right reason, and thank goodness for that. But overall the profession is no longer attracting the best and brightest. Raising salaries, making it harder to get into these programs, making it harder to obtain a certification, and, of course, holding the profession overall in higher esteem would all be good first steps in my book.

Charlie Mas said...

Three quotes jumped out for me:

"We have a group of education schools that are perplexed at why they are being so criticized"

"The institution must recognize the importance of scholarly activity in a graduate school"

"The debate mirrors a larger concern nationally, which is that by treating teaching as a trade instead of an art"

The schools are being criticized because they are turning out students who are not really prepared to do the job. They aren't fulfilling the vocational training need.

The schools are also being criticized because their students are graduating without needed cultural competency - an academic failing.

But there has never been a presumption that law schools have turned out graduates who are really ready to practice law - they need a lot of on-the-job training and experience building. Same for doctors, engineers, and other professionals. There is no profession in which recent graduates are really prepared to do the work.

The problem here is that teachers are no longer regarded as professionals. Consequently, we see the creation of teacher trainings (as opposed to teacher education), and the schools find themselves required to work to explain the need for scholarly work by their students - as opposed to vocational training for them.

That issue - that sentiment - is coming through loud and clear in the third quote which explicitly questions whether teaching is a profession or a trade.

Here's what I reckon:

Test prep - as performed by some of these so-called high performing charter schools and Teach for America - is a trade. Teaching is a profession. We need to choose if our focus is to improve test scores for the sake of having higher test scores, or if we want to improve student learning.

If we make the test scores the primary measure of student achievement, of school quality, and of teacher effectiveness, then we will foster strategies for raising test scores - which may occur independent of the actual student learning that those test scores are supposed to measure.

Name said...

I think here should be master teachers who are autonomous professionals and apprentice teachers who have to pass a test before they are ready to teach on their own - and I don't mean a standardized paper and pen test - I mean demonstrating proficiency in the classroom in all aspects. They say new teachers take between 2-5 years to really master the craft, so wouldn't it be better to have them learn alongside a master who can still ensure that the kids are getting a quality education? Having help in the class would also help reduce veteran teacher burn out. Right now, teachers do their student teaching and then move on regardless of demonstrated ability.

Charlie Mas said...

Name put it right out there - apprentice and master - as a trade rather than a profession.

mirmac1 said...

OMG! I thought this blogger was talking about our school district! All the BS about "right-sizing" and "token efforts towards 'community involvement'"

How My School and District Failed its Students

Another great blog to read...

Anonymous said...

Charlie - we're all workers - except for a few Richard Feynman types who get to get paid to think to ruminate and to cogitate - what do the rest of us do that matters?

In some professions and in some jobs the workers have hard to obtain skills, and the education credentials are just 1 of many steps on the paths to obtaining the skills. Training for almost all workers is too much of a crap shoot.

In a country with 4 or 5%? of the world's population, a country which uses 20% +/- of the world's resources, you'd think we'd be exporting the highly skilled in developing and maintaining world class health care systems, transportation systems, honest and non predatory finance and banking systems, education & retraining systems, housing systems, efficient private sector regulatory systems, energy creation and delivery systems, food production systems...

Instead, we produce highly credential bloated managements focused on survival to ultimately get focused on self aggrandizement.

28 years ago, when I was 23, someone I was going to culinary school with, who was herself a career changer, said that crappy management is the cause of crappy unions. Crappy colleges of ed are the cause of crap like TFA and hucksters like Arne.


Anonymous said...

Teaching is jazz singing.

It can't be taught. It can only be done.

Ed schools, like music & art schools, can only teach the background essentials of form, theory, and content.

But then the teacher has to get up there and wow them all.

How do you learn to teach (get to Carniege Hall)? Practice. Practice. Practice.

(And that's why teacher evaluations by amature, "tone deaf" admins are such a disaster. And why testing and "curriculums" are such a disaster. You can hit the high note, or not.)


Jan said...

Charlie -- I think you are too hard on Name. Look at medicine -- doctors "apprentice" for YEARS as interns and residents (acutally, they start in about the 3rd year of med school). Lawyers? Some do/some don't -- but the first/second years for many new associates in firms is much like an internship.

I must say that in all the disparagement of TfA, I always feel a little bit of a disconnect, because I think that colleges of education are full of more bunk than other professional schools. I would love to see something that is very different from what we have (more time "assisting" in classrooms with master teachers, etc.) -- AND VERY different from what TfA proposes (which is like becoming an EMT, instread of a doctor). Apologies to EMTs -- as they probably have FAR more rigorous training than TfA provides.

Sahila said...

A "did you know?": APPLE is offering free used Ipads to TeachForAwhile recruits, but not to certificated teachers coming out of ed colleges...

Teach for America – What Apple's Not Telling You

Apple is asking people to donate their used Ipads to teachers.

But there's a catch: only TFA teachers get them. National Board-certified
teachers and graduates from colleges of education are turned away.

Why the unfair treatment? Why is Apple playing favorites?

Let's ask Apple.

When: Saturday, August 13th from 10 to noon.

At 10am we will be
gathering near the driveway next to RAM restaurant next door to go over the plan.

10:30am a group of teachers will be going in the store to ask for donated iPads (people will be needed to film on their iphones preferably).

11am we will start leafleting and picketing outside the store against their partnership with TFA.

Where: Apple Store - 2656 NE University Village

If you want to be in on the fun, please contact us and let us know you're coming -

Kristin (Parents Across America - Seattle) - kaking2@gmail.com


Dan (Social Equality Educators) - dantroccoli@gmail.com...

Jet City mom said...

APPLE is offering free used Ipads to TeachForAwhile recruits, but not to certificated teachers coming out of ed colleges...

What a bunch of hooey.
My daughter ( who graduated from a top LAC- same school that Jobs dropped out of BTW), is in a two yr internship through a school of education in Oregon & while she couldn't care less about an iPad, the slight to teachers who take their training seriously is irritating.

Name said...

Charlie, name me a profession where an employee does not work under the direct supervision of a more experienced colleague when they first get hired on? In every other profession, a person's responsibilities are added as they learn the field. Teaching is the only one I can think of where they drop you right into the thick of things. Rookie police and firefighters are partnered with more experience people. Advertising associates are given small jobs until they prove that they can handle the more complex stuff. Unless you are a public defender or prosecutor, a freshly barred lawyer is a junior member of a firm and has to earn his/her way up. Doctors in training spend years being guided by more experienced, master physicians and they have prove that they can handle all aspects of the job. before they are allowed to practice on their own. Why is having an apprentice system antithetical to having a teaching profession?

That Passionate Teacher said...

In many ways, the traditional training pathways for teachers has a bit of similarity to the training of doctors. Allow me to show you:

Every Traditionally Trained teacher--you know, those who actually use the real certification pathways--has done a lengthy period of student teaching. Think of this as the new teacher's "internship".
During that internship, they are paying tuition to their college for the right to work for free. They work under a cooperating teacher and begin to learn their craft there.

Every new teacher in every district I have ever worked for is automatically assigned a mentor by the district. That mentor is assigned a small number of new teachers and part of their responsibility is to "make the rounds" of their newbies and help them work out their challenges. You can think of this period as the new teacher's "Residency".

Every teacher, regardless of experience, is supervised by their building administration. Administrators are supposed to have been trained in mentoring struggling teachers, however mileage varies widely between model years.

More and more, teachers are expected to be part of Professional Learning Communities--a group that focusses on students problems and analyzes both teacher practices and students work with the goal of improving both. Think of this like "Grand Rounds" in the medical profession.

Here's an aside that I'm not sure has a parallel in the medical profession. During the first two years of their contract status, the teacher can be let go for any reason. Any reason at all. The principal says to themself "I don't like them" or "I think I can find someone a little better", and he/she can simply non-renew the teacher at that point. It's only at the end of the second year's contract that the teacher finally gets a continuing contract for their third year.

The problem for the Education profession is that (as Charlie has said many times) no-one would think to bash the training of Physicians, whereas they refuse to see the value in the parallel training of our educators.

StopTFA said...

Likewise teacher preparation is alot like that for engineers: you can study engineering and get an engineering degree, work a few years under the supervision of a professional engineer (P.E.), then apply to take the PE exam. Alternatively, some old-timers have worked they way up through technical training, show a greater number of years supervised or mentored by a PE, then apply to take the exam. Either way, a client will want to have a licensed engineer design their project if they don't want a catastrophic failure.

There is no five week engineering training. Engineering students run the gamut from good to bad. Yet, when they're done and have that PE they have all met the same high bar and shown their mettle.

Steveroo said...

The great majority of engineers are not licensed. Recently the US average was about 18%, with civil engineers licensed at much higher rates than others, about 44%. These are the people who signed off on the design of the viaduct. And that bulging retaining wall holding back the landslide-prone hillside above your neighbor's house. And that bad intersection where you almost get run over every other year.

In the April, 2011 NCEES PE exams for civil engineers, 69% of first-time exam takers passed, and 40% of those trying again passed. For electrical engineers, 61% and 28%. For PE certification in Fire Protection, 52% and 29% (ncees.org).

People taking these exams need a minimum of four years of post-college work experience. Many experienced engineers in industry attempt the PE exams and fail. It's actually not much like teacher certification. Primarily it's to qualify to hang out a shingle as the responsible party for projects where there's some risk and no clearly definable one right way to do it, and where something unforeseen could go very wrong and thus someone needs to be sued.

Anonymous said...

to That Passionate Teacher at 8:44 - your ideas sound great - I wonder where it happens.

My 1st year mentor was told to NOT show us how to do anything, because we should discover it ourselves. Thankfully she ignored that nonsense. My 2nd year in another ... local... district had coaches who were supposed to suck up your prep and your lunch period chatting about grand ideas.

Those first 2 years, there were hours and hours of training where we NEVER did anything to help us be better tomorrow, or, in 2 days.

I'll tell you what I know would work. Have the mentor / coach / whatever show up for a specific period on mon., tues. or wed, and let them see what you're trying to do. That day, they work with you to fix the next day's lesson. The next day, the help you decipher and then help you fix the day after.

People who disagree with me - I wish they'd fire all of them so the time sucking parasites would be out of my life.


That Passionate Teacher said...

Dear HelpTheKidsNotTheTheories,

I'm sorry it went down for you like that. As I said--mileage may vary.

My point was that the teaching profession has a number of supports for entrants that in some ways parallels those of other professions. I did point out that mileage may vary...

In contrast to your unfortunate experience, my own assigned mentor during my first year showed up every so often and asked me "what do you need and what can I do to help?" On those occasions when I needed something, he helped me find what I needed. On those occasions when I did not need anything, he said "okay, see you on (insert date)," and headed out to see his next person. At the end of the first year, he recommended me to be exited from mentorship and that was that.

My read of your post implied that you switched districts between the first and second years. If true, that would result in even the best second year teacher ending up as a "new employee mentorship" candidate. My condolences that it went the way it did.

Your point about the quality (or lack thereof) of mentorship and "coaching" that is often given is well taken--and the subject of an entirely different rant--but unfortunately it is completely tangential in the context of my original thesis that support structures that parallel other professions' also exist in ours.

mirmac1 said...


Not sure if you are an engineer yourself but, back in the 50's (when the viaduct and seawall were engineered) the licensure rules were different, if they existed at all. If someone's stupid enough to hire an unlicensed, uninsured engineer, or inexperienced teacher, they got what was coming 'em.

Either way, the point is there's no quickie way to get a license to do something

Anonymous said...

Here's kind of an interesting exchange between Kenneth Zeichner (UW) and Larry Cuban (Stanford) that indirectly references TFA in Seattle.


Or if my link gets cut off, try this here and maybe one of them will work.


Jet City mom said...

THinking out loud here.
The STEM grant was to cover the $4,000 handling fee for STEM TFA " teachers" emirite?

Of the four candidates being discussed tonight, only one is thinking of teaching math- although they are not a math major ( their degree is in polysci/journalism- no wonder they are looking for a job)
Will the STEM grant cover this person and will they cover anyone else?