An SOS for Teacher Education ; Better Training Should Become a Top Priority at Colleges, New Reportsays

Article excerpt

For decades, K-12 teachers and the university faculty who train them have bemoaned the scant resources devoted to teacher training. But that's changing. Fast.

One key sign: A new national report on teacher training by the Washington-based American Council on Education (ACE) bluntly told college and university presidents last week that teacher-education programs must be "moved to the center" of their school's priorities "or moved out."

Teacher education moved into the spotlight last year after nearly half those taking a Massachusetts certification test failed. Most were newly minted college graduates. It shocked the public and provoked outcry from legislators.

Now some say the timing is right for this report's message to ripple through higher education.

"We feel pretty good about the fact that college and university presidents will pay attention," says Michael Baer, a senior vice president at ACE. "This report will give college presidents something, some ammunition, to take back to their campuses."

The report says America has an opportunity to transform the quality of its teachers because 2.5 million new teachers must be hired in the next decade. Yet to take full advantage of the opportunity to boost teacher quality nationally, universities must:

*Coordinate education programs with arts and sciences faculty and courses to "move teacher education beyond the confines of a single department or college and raise it to the institutional level."

*Ensure the quality of teacher training with regular campus-wide reviews - and with external audits by an independent third party. College and university presidents must "embrace independent assessment of the quality of their teacher programs, or close their teacher-education programs," the ACE report says.

But some observers question whether teacher-education colleges will embrace such recommendations.

For one thing, their status as cash cows for many institutions may make education programs resistant to change. "Anytime you increase the quality and reduce the income to an institution, it's going to create a dilemma for a university president," says Randy Hitz, dean of the college of education at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "Teacher education has long been one of the primary ways for schools to bring in extra revenue. …