Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Markets, Standards, Teaching, and Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Markets, Standards, Teaching, and Teacher Education

Article excerpt


There have been numerous proposals to reform teacher education within the past decade. Although many of them have been quite thoughtful, a considerable amount of the discussion has taken place in something of a social and ideological vacuum. It has not been reflective enough about the major changes that have been taking place in curriculum, teaching, and evaluation in schools in many nations. Yet, these transformations are already having a profound effect on the ways teaching is done, who controls it, and what schools themselves are for. Without a serious examination of these transformations, we will be unable to prepare our current and future teachers for a world in which the rules have changed (Liston & Zeichner, 1990). In this article, I want to focus on these changes, especially the forces of what I have called "conservative modernization," in which what schools are for, how they are funded and controlled, and whom they are to serve are moving in specific directions (Apple, 2000b, 2001). Conservative modernization is the result of a tense and sometimes contradictory blend of three kinds of reforms--neoliberal market-based reforms, neoconservative reforms involving strong central cultural authority, and new middle-class emphases on technical and managerial solutions to moral and political problems.(1)

The effects of this combination of neoliberal, neoconservative, and managerial tendencies on teacher education are and will be increasingly visible. In the United States, England, and many other nations, there are proposals to totally deregulate teacher education so that competition among institutions of higher education, private for-profit training agencies, and school districts themselves will supposedly reinvigorate teacher education and make these programs more cost-effective and efficient.

The influence of this approach is visible in the arguments for deregulation advanced by the Fordham Foundation, for example. For groups such as this, the free market, by itself, will solve problems by deregulating both teacher hiring and teacher education. In such marketized plans, quality will be guaranteed by directly relating teacher skills to student performance on standardized tests (Darling-Hammond, 2000, p. 176).

At the same time these more market-based approaches are growing internationally, there are concomitant moves to create uniformity and a system of more centralized authority over what counts as important teacher skills and knowledge. Some of these are seemingly partly progressive, and others are attempts to centralize control over what teachers are to do even though their rhetoric is couched in the language of increasing professional competence. Reports such as What Matters Most are often seen to be at the more progressive end of this continuum and are indicative of the move toward higher standards and higher levels of "professionalization" in teacher education (National Commission on Teaching and America's Future [NCTAF], 1996). Although many of NCTAF's recommendations have been seen as controversial or have been largely ignored by many colleges, universities, and school districts, theirs and similar documents have been seen as major advances by a number of well-known advocates for uniform and higher standards. In their minds, these recommendations will lead to important gains in professionalism and respect among other things (see, e.g., Darling-Hammond, 2000; Yinger & Hendricks-Lee, 2000).

All of these latter efforts are occurring at a time when an increasingly active state is engaged in policing the results of teacher education programs, adding more standardized tests for teachers and future teachers to take, and attempting to ensure that teacher education programs are held publicly accountable for their "products." Thus, state report cards are being produced wherein teacher education programs are ranked and placed in situations in which they, in essence, are competing with each other for both funding and status. …

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