Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Identifying Consensus in Teacher Education Reform Documents: A Proposed Framework and Action Implications

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Identifying Consensus in Teacher Education Reform Documents: A Proposed Framework and Action Implications

Article excerpt

Since the publication of A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), dialogue on school improvement has increasingly focused on the improvement of teacher preparation. In the mid-1980s, three reform documents, A Call for Change in Teacher Education (National Commission on Excellence in Teacher Education [NCETE], 1985), Tomorrow's Teachers (Holmes Group, 1986), and A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century (Carnegie Forum, 1986), signaled a new direction for the literature on school reform. No longer solely concerned with the lack of curriculum standards and academic rigor in American schools, the authors of these documents shifted the focus to teachers and the quality of their preparation. In the 1990s, additional documents drifted in and out of the teacher education debate. But this wide array of proposals, coupled with the lack of coordinated effort among sponsoring groups, has obscured the degree to which reform agendas are compatible. Given the proliferation of proposals, with each carrying its own set of assumptions and objectives, the body of teacher education reform literature as a whole appears fragmented and the individual proposals, idiosyncratic. Recommendations advocated by some are ignored or even opposed by others. Some analysts see convergence of opinion: proposals that are philosophically, programmatically, and/or strategically compatible (Fullan, Galluzzo, Morris, & Watson, 1998). Others see mostly differences: proposals that vary both in terms of their assessment of the current quality of teacher education programs as well as in terms of how they should be changed (Howey & Zimpher, 1989, p. 1). No one, however, has systematically identified areas of agreement and disagreement across the major proposals or the strength of the consensus.

Because all proposals have their unique institutional and political histories, varying assessments of problems and reform strategies are understandable (Tom, 1997). Reform proposals are written for different purposes, constituencies, and contexts. The Holmes Group, for example, began as a commission of deans from major research-oriented schools of education, whereas the Carnegie Forum was a task force of education, business, and government leaders. Both the Holmes Group and the Carnegie Forum helped set the terms for the initial debate on teacher education reform, pressing for the abolition of the undergraduate education major and the implementation of rigorous academic and performance-based standards for students and teachers. National organizations such as the Project 30 Alliance (1991) and the Renaissance Group (1996) have brought together university faculty and administrators from arts and sciences and faculty and administrators from education units to advocate for their conception of quality teacher education. These groups have published both reform recommendations and descriptions of programs at their participating institutions. The reform ideas advocated by the Center for Educational Renewal (CER) draw on empirical data, although the postulates themselves derive more from core members' judgments of the proper role of schools and teachers than from the empirical base (Goodlad, 1990, 1994).

Most recently, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF, 1996), composed of business, education, and political leaders, has occupied the focal point for discourse about teacher education. The first of NCTAF's two major publications, What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future (NCTAF, 1996), has detailed necessary steps in preparing knowledgeable, skillful, and committed teachers; it argues for policies and practices to support quality teachers. The second report, Doing What Matters Most: Investing in Quality Teaching (1997), summarizes national progress toward the goals outlined in the first report and reframes some of its previous recommendations in light of policy changes and data on both the conditions of teaching and the characteristics of effective teacher education programs. …

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