Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Toward Building Defensible Extended Programs: Challenging the Assumptions

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Toward Building Defensible Extended Programs: Challenging the Assumptions

Article excerpt

The highly publicized "failure" of public education instigated scores of national reports and task force recommendations intent on returning excellence to American schools. (1-3) Many of the proposed solutions are controversial, particularly the Holmes Group and Carnegie Task Force proposals to move all teacher education to the graduate level. (4,5)

The Holmes Group, named after a former dean of the Harvard Graduate School, convened in 1983 as a consortium of education deans from leading research universities. The Holmes Group outlined an ambitious plan to improve educational achievement through improved teacher training. The reforms include:

  * A more coherent, better taught, undergraduate
liberal arts curriculum,
  * Teachers knowledgeable about the subjects they
teach,
  * A professional curriculum grounded on research,
  * More productive clinical experiences,
  * Tougher and more appropriate screens for entry
to and exit from teacher preparation programs,
  * Transfer of professional education, or at least the
bulk of it, to the graduate level, thus requiring at least
five years of college to become a teacher,
  * Establishment of "professional development
schools" through which teachers would be inducted
into the profession after the fifth year,
  * Improvement of teachers' working conditions and
an increased role for teachers in professional decisionmaking,
and
  * Restructuring the profession to provide three
"ranks"--instructor, professional teacher, and career
professional.

Another document fueling much of the current teacher education reform was the plan of the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a profession, A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century. (5) Like the Holmes Group's Tomorrow's Teachers, the Carnegie report proposes a bachelor's degree in arts and sciences as a prerequisite for professional study of teaching, restructuring schools to provide a more professional environment and career ladder, providing salaries and career opportunities competitive with other professions, and moving most teacher preparation to the graduate level.

Such calls to action are powerful, and health educators are not immune to the intriguing possibilities of extended preparation programs. (6,7) If such programs are developed, they must be built on sound research findings and not emotional rhetoric riddled with ambiguous assertions, misconceptions, and half-truths.

The health education profession has increased in credibility and effectiveness by examining a variety of assumptions held by those within and without the discipline. (8-10) By challenging assumptions about the nature of health, what it means to be a health educator, and the contextual nature of health education, a realistic code of ethics, a defensible knowledge base, and a comprehensive framework for professional preparation have evolved. This evolution may be short-lived if education reform proposals, especially those that affect school health teacher training are not seriously questioned.

Using recent research on teacher education, this article challenges many assumptions from the current reform debate. The increasing influence of the National Council on Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), as well as the increasing number of states offering alternative certification will be analyzed. In addition, recommendations for a six-year preparation program will be offered.

PREVALENT REFORM ASSUMPTIONS

Assumption 1A: Majoring in the humanities or liberal arts is inherently superior to majoring in secondary education

Assumption 1B: Secondary education students do not complete an academic major in their specialty area

Upon reading Tomorrow's Teachers and A Nation Prepared, two assumptions that frame several reform proposals emerge: undergraduate teacher education lacks intellectual rigor, and an academic major in the humanities guarantees a more content and knowledgeable teacher. …

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