Transforming teacher prep

Teacher education should be “turned upside down” to prioritize teaching internships over academic coursework concludes “Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice,” a report by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).  This is a seismic moment for teacher education,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, a co-chair of the blue ribbon panel that wrote the report.

Eight states – California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee – have agreed to implement the panel’s recommendations.

The earth did not move for Rick Hess. He likes the shift to practice teaching “interwoven with academic content and professional courses.” But he doesn’t see radical new thinking.

If the training is happening in K-12 schools, do we need colleges of education? Should every teacher be a jack of all trades? Do internships work for online teachers or tutors? What about emerging school models?

Instead, I see a call for a new “one best” approach to teacher preparation, one ill-suited for serving educators in new kinds of roles or for supporting more agile, cost-effective staffing models.

Past “seismic” edu-reforms proved to be little more than fads, Hess writes.

As someone who spent five years supervising student teachers, I’ve seen a whole lot of pretty awful practice-oriented teacher preparation. It’s not clear to me from this report how preparation programs can be counted on to guard against that or keep their “clinical” training from simply meaning that their students are wasting time in K-12 schools instead of on the college campus.

Teacher internships will cost more, but the report mentions no offsetting savings — or proof that clinically trained teachers will “enter the field ready to teach.” Hess follows up here.

Teacher Beat, who’s seen many reports and little change, has more on the recommendations.

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  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    From what I can tell, this is the same old-same old with a lot of student teaching attached. No one already in the teacher training business will lose money or power, and getting to be a teacher will be harder and more expensive.

    I suspect if you asked a committee of generals, admirals, and defense contractors to change how the country’s military operated, you’d get the same sort of sh*t.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    There’s a great irony to this report. The authors have tried mightily to be practical and politically realistic. Traditionally, that means that some people get more money and nobody gets less. Some things can grow but nothing can shrink.

    However, we are now in a situation where all levels of government have promised to do a lot more than they can presently pay for. Adding on is going to be hard, especially since the recent elections seem to have returned people who don’t want to tax more.

    Perhaps the rules have changed. By trying to be politically realistic, this report may have condemned itself to political irrelevance.

  3. Most teachers I know don’t have many favorable comments about education classes. They may have had a class or two they enjoyed in college, such as Educational Psychology. But the vast majority argue that teachers learn to teach by teaching – and that doesn’t mean student teaching/practicum. It seems most learned to teach in their first 2-3 years, and that probably explains why half of all teachers leave the profession after about three years. Thus, the question is how to “train” effective teachers – if that is even possible.

    The plan reminds of a book I read a decade ago called The Conspiracy of Ignorance. The author called for the elimination of bachelor degrees in teaching and instead envisioned a Master’s degree program for teachers who have completed a bachelor’s degree in content. He also argued for higher academic standards for teachers, requiring that teaching candidates only come from the top third of their class.

    While there are reasons to criticize this idea, it is more in line with teacher education practices around the world. I’ve argued before that there are only so many “Superman” teachers, and I really think an effective teacher is much more a natural characteristic than a taught skill. But that’s not an absolute position. It will be interesting to see where this goes.