Duncan Puts Ed Schools on Blast

Last week saw the most clicks landing on coverage of Arne Duncan’s speech at Columbia University’s Teachers College, where the Education Secretary criticized U.S. education schools for ill-preparing K-12 teachers. High enrollment programs like education bring in the bucks, but often, universities choose to spend that money on smaller, more prestigious programs like physics, Duncan said. The government has also been remiss in setting the licensure bar too low and disinvesting in high-quality mentoring programs, he added.

In his speech, Duncan cited former Columbia Teacher’s College President Arthur Levine’s 2006 report Educating School Teachers, which warned education schools to raise their standards and align program goals or prepare to be totally replaced by alternative certification programs. Duncan said the teachers he’s talked to say education schools fall short on two main points:

  • Hands-on classroom management training
  • Training on how to use data to improve instruction and student learning

Back in August, Eduwonk hosted a nice series of posts on reinventing ed. schools: from required courses, to coaching / mentoring, to exit criteria. And the National Journal Online is moderating a discussion on how best to measure teacher effectiveness. In his speech, Duncan noted his department is using stimulus dollars to reward states that draw a line between student achievement, teachers, and the institutions preparing teachers.

At TeachMoore, Renee Moore says willpower and resources must align to provide all teacher candidates with “extended experiences of observing and being observed by highly accomplished teachers,” something she identifies as a nonnegotiable if we’re serious about improving teacher prep.

Then there are some like teacher and blogger daveinchi at DailyKos, who refused to accept the entire premise of Duncan’s speech, saying U.S. education suffers not at the hands of education colleges but from management by noneducators like Duncan. To daveinchi’s credit, there do seem to be some competing priorities in what Duncan supports for teacher training: alternative routes with little or no classroom component before teachers “go live” versus $43 million in federal dollars to residency programs which require one year under a full-time, master classroom teacher before go-live date. (Teacher Beat’s Steven Sawchuk sees the complications brewing in these mixed messages.)

Do ed. schools deserve to be called out? Are noneducators responsible for the “unruly and chaotic” state of teacher prep nationwide? Would you improve upon your own teacher training experience?