Social Foundations and Multicultural Education Course Requirements in Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States

Article excerpt

Teacher quality has been a central issue in discourse on improvement of schooling outcomes. While the importance of teacher quality is widely acknowledged, there is considerable dispute regarding necessary skills, knowledge, and dispositions of a highly qualified teacher, as well as the methods for producing such teachers. Indeed, even the definition of teacher effectiveness is contested. One area of teacher preparation that has been marginalized in the debate on teacher quality is the social foundations of education (SFE), a critical, interdisciplinary area of study that examines education and schooling through lenses of history, philosophy, and the social sciences (Tozar & Miretsky, 2000). In recent years, and particularly since the onset of the new century, the value of skills, knowledge, and dispositions promoted in teacher preparation SFE courses and the subsumed or related knowledge domain of multicultural education (ME), have been largely ignored in policy documents

on teacher quality. Whether disregard of these knowledge and skill areas has had or will have an impact on course requirements in this domain in teacher preparation programs is an important question that should be of interest to those who value the content and goals of SFE/ME.

Although limitations of extant data preclude comparison of current course requirements in SFE/ME with those in teacher education programs of the past, establishment of a benchmark on course requirements in this area will help clarify the status of SFE/ME in the field and enable future assessments of trends. This study examined the question of course requirements in SFE and ME in university-based teacher preparation programs in the United States that lead to an initial credential.

Context

Teacher education has long been under siege from many quarters. As David F. Labaree (2004) explains, schools of education are commonly perceived as low-status members of the university academic community, where many professors outside the field regard the discipline as intellectually impoverished. Teachers and teaching-credential candidates often complain of onerous assignments and too much attention to theory in education courses, which they perceive to have little practical value to their work in the real world of schools and classrooms. Policymakers frequently identify teacher education programs as a fundamental cause of bad teaching and poor schooling outcomes. These criticism and others contributed to the assault on teacher education in the 1990s (Kramer, 1991; Sowell, 1993; Hirsch, 1996), which even included a harsh attack from within by deans of university-based education schools (Holmes Group, 1995).

As assessment of public school effectiveness became increasingly tied to standardized test scores in the 21st century and a mandate for "highly qualified teachers" in the No Child Left Behind Act focused attention on the relationship between teacher quality and student achievement, the critique of teacher education sharpened its focus on value-added measures of student achievement. The question of which specific elements of teacher preparation produce the greatest student achievement gains became central. At the same time, a downturn in the economy resurrected educational crisis rhetoric of the early 1980s and an economic rationale for reforming teacher preparation began to appear in government reports and other policy documents on the subject--saving a nation at risk of losing its economic competitiveness.

Secretary of Education Rodney Paige (United States Department of Education, 2002) entered the fray with his first report to Congress on teacher quality, wherein he asserted, "there is little evidence that education school coursework leads to improved student achievement" (p. 19). According to Paige much of teacher education is unnecessary.

   The data show that many states mandate a shocking number of
   education courses to qualify for certification. …