Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

A Golden Age for Teacher Ed: Teacher Education Programs Are Already Responding to Demands That They Change and Are Beginning to Efficiently Strengthen the Capabilities of Teachers, Schools, and Children

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

A Golden Age for Teacher Ed: Teacher Education Programs Are Already Responding to Demands That They Change and Are Beginning to Efficiently Strengthen the Capabilities of Teachers, Schools, and Children

Article excerpt

It's time to stop whining about teacher education. Screeds about the topic have been pounding their headache-inducing drumbeat for at least two generations. Traditional teacher education is seen as an embarrassment to academic institutions and a liability to the nation. It is scorned as dysfunctional.

Today, the buzz is about enthusiastic reformers and various forms of "alternative certification." The argument is that teacher education is a dismal swamp and we should give up on it. It's an appealing narrative, but the story relies on caricatures and nostalgia. As a satisfyingly self-righteous argument, it leads us away from the truth. The reality is that teacher education stands on the threshold of a golden age.

It's true that, in years past, the shortcomings of academic teacher education were demonstrably scandalous. Today, however, it's a surprisingly strong enterprise that's been improving incrementally and, most recently, with accelerating force. The real news is that teacher education is now entering an era of intense intellectual inquiry, scientific investigation, and rapid advancement. Strategies to increase its capacity are attracting some of the most talented researchers and scholars. New tools that can identify teachers who consistently manage significant learning gains for all their pupils are illuminating new avenues for analyzing effective teaching. Students entering teacher education programs today are academically competent, and the enterprise is focused on evidence-based means of continuously improving the course of study. In addition, its sheer size demands that it be taken seriously.

TEACHERS FOR A NEW ERA

Recently, I chaired the education division at Carnegie Corporation of New York and directed a grant program called Teachers for a New Era (TNE). We supported the efforts of 11 colleges and universities to strengthen their teacher education programs through an ambitious redesign. An additional 30 institutions accepted our invitation to join a TNE learning network. Those network institutions accepted the three governing principles of the TNE design initiative:

1. Decisions are driven by sound evidence, including, for example, using assessments of learning by pupils of the aspiring teacher as a measure of the quality of the program;

2. The programs encourage strong engagement with the subject matter of the arts and sciences; and

3. Teaching is conceptualized as an academically taught clinical practice profession that requires structured support during a period of induction for the first two years of employment as a professional teacher.

All of the TNE-affiliated programs admit outstanding candidates, produce successful teachers, and convincingly demonstrate their effectiveness.

For example, the University of Virginia Curry School of Education, which receives support from TNE, admits only those students who already have been admitted to the College of Arts and Sciences. The teacher education program requires a five-year undergraduate preparation, and it integrates its clinical practice closely with the two largest school districts in its area, one urban and one rural. The university, through a carefully designed induction program, also supports certified novice teachers just beginning their careers in these districts. And researchers at the university have also developed an unusually revealing instrument for recording how teachers bring about learning in their classrooms. This Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) identifies key dimensions of teacher behavior that are correlated with student learning. With this information, researchers have developed an online help for teachers called My Teaching Partner, which, among other features, allows teachers to observe video clips of effective teachers as they deliver lessons.

New York University, a member of the Learning Network, certifies about 750 new teachers each year. …

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