Training teachers on the job

In Education Next, Katherine Newman looks at innovative models of teacher training that feature “rigorous selection processes, practical coursework and tremendous field-based support.”

(Boston Teacher Residency) is implementing a model that emphasizes training teachers on-site in actual classrooms with students and lead teachers, similar to the way medical residents grow into effective doctors by working directly with patients under the guidance of veterans. Instead of following a typical list of course and credit-hour requirements, the organization sponsoring the internship or residency-style program tailors coursework to meet the needs of the particular school or type of school in which the teacher will be employed.

Newman also looks at San Diego–based High Tech High (HTH), which trains and certifies its own teachers, and Alliance for Catholic Education’s Teacher Formation program, “the Teach For America of parochial schools.”

Traditional teacher-training programs teach “few skills applicable to real classrooms” writes Newman. But many alternative certification programs, which now prepare one fifth of new teachers, aren’t any better.

Of the alternative certification programs the NCTQ (National Council on Teacher Quality) surveyed for a 2007 report, only one-third require a summer teaching practicum and one-quarter provide weekly mentoring for teachers once the school year starts.

One-quarter take nearly all applicants, says NCTQ.

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  1. Charles R. Williams says:

    I always found it curious that colleges of education had no idea how to educate potential teachers and refused to stand behind the credentials they issued.

    Teachers should be hired by school administrators – preferably principals in the very schools where they will teach. The only paper qualifications would be good moral character, a BA degree and high cognitive skills as measured by tests. Train them for a summer in pedagogy and school procedures. Apprentice them to the best teachers in the school for a year. Then give them a summer of seminars to reflect on their experiences.

    Potential teachers would pay for the costs of this instruction in the form of a loan. If the school decided at any point that the person was unsuitable, he would leave and the loan would be wiped out. If the person were offered a permanent position, the new teacher’s loan would be written off over 5 years. If the new teacher went to a different school system, either the teacher or his new employer would pay off the loan.

    This would give school administrators a huge stake in the success of new teachers. It would cut the costs of entering the teaching profession and expand the pool of candidates for teaching jobs.

  2. Stand back everyone, I’ve got this one.

    It’s not that schools of education don’t have any idea how to educate teachers it’s that there’s not much call for them to do so.

    The teaching certificate’s the actual product of the ed school, not the well-prepared embryonic teacher, and since there’s no responsibility on the part of teachers to teach there are no repercussions for issuing teaching credentials to ill-prepared teachers. That situation won’t change until teaching becomes a professionally-valued skill and that won’t change until someone who suffers professionally/politically as a direct and immediate result of lousy teaching, the directer and immediater the better.

  3. It doesn’t matter if a program like this accepts any warm body that applies because the experience of being in a classroom is very good at weeding out those for whom teaching is not a good fit. (And, yes, I very much like these types of programs and think they are the way to go.)

    I host a lot of observers from a local teacher ed school, and I always ask them to teach a couple of simple lessons, even though they’re just there to sit and watch me. For one, it makes their observations more valuable because they get a dose of quasi-reality that shakes up their comparisons of me vs. textbook; secondly, they can start figuring out if the whole thing terrifies them.

    Right now my SPED partner has a student teacher who is taking over until spring break. So far, he’s thought it satisfactory to sit back and laugh at the kids’ antics. Party is over. Time to put his feet to the fire. The last thing I want to do is help certify somebody I don’t want to work with.

  4. The purpose of putting a student teacher with an established veteran is so they can learn, not be laughed at.

    Does your partner laugh at kids who are struggling to?

  5. Mike, you misread (or I miswrote). The student teacher sits and laughs at the kids (ie. does nothing but inspire them to misbehave further). Does that sound like a good candidate to you?

    The SPED teacher and I have been working together for years. We laugh a lot with the kids, yes.

  6. My bad, I did mis-read, No this does not sound like a good candidate.

  7. A how, pray tell, is the experience of being in a classroom going to weed out those for whom teaching isn’t a good fit but who don’t give a damn? You know, the purely mercenary folks who are looking for a paycheck and have zero regard for the quality of work that’s expected of them?

    I’m sure that in your school that’s not an issue and heck, it might actually be the case that in your school the unfit are ruthlessly weeded out. But unless this noble adherence to professional responsibility is more widely represented in the teaching profession then in other working populations what’s the reason to think performance trumps certification in general?

  8. Ever student taught, allen?

  9. Allen,

    You are aware teachers are college graduates, aren’t you (unless they want to teach in a Texas charter school, then they need only be HS graduates)?

  10. > Ever student taught, allen?

    You answer my question I’ll answer yours.

    > You are aware teachers are college graduates, aren’t you?

    Sure Mike and are you aware that about the only thing that’s changed since an eighth grade education was a common requirement to be a teacher was a flood of money into public education?

  11. Lightly Seasoned says:

    I can’t answer it well without some more information, allen.