Ed schools don’t ‘train’ teachers

Ed schools don’t train teachers, writes Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, in Education Next. “Training” is taboo. Instead, teacher educators believe it’s their job to “prepare” or “form” professionals who will decide how to teach.

 The function of teacher education is to launch the candidate on a lifelong path of learning, distinct from knowing, as actual knowledge is perceived as too fluid to be achievable. In the course of a teacher’s preparation, prejudices and errant assumptions must be confronted and expunged, with particular emphasis on those related to race, class, language, and culture. . . . candidates reveal their feelings and attitudes through abundant in-class dialogue and by keeping a journal. From these activities is born each teacher’s unique philosophy of teaching and learning.

Many teacher educators think it’s more important for teachers to be “activists committed to diminishing the inequities of American society” than to be effective instructors, writes Walsh.

Methods courses no longer teach the best methods of instruction, write Renee T. Clift and Patricia Brady in Studying Teacher Education. Instead, “instructors work simultaneously with prospective teachers on beliefs, teaching practices and creation of identities—their students’ and their own.”

This puts a huge burden on new teachers, notes Walsh.  At the age of 21 or 22, they’re sent into classrooms to figure it all out for themselves.

In a 2012 Fordham survey, only 37 percent of teacher educators said it’s “absolutely essential” to develop “teachers who maintain discipline and order in the classroom.”

Worse, future elementary teachers aren’t trained to teach reading effectively, Walsh writes. In most ed schools,  a prospective teacher  is told to “develop her own approach to teaching reading, based on exposure to various philosophies and approaches, none more valid than any other.”

Walsh has ideas for improving teacher education.

The Obama administration’s $5 billion teacher initiative is here.

About Joanne


  1. Wouldn’t effective instruction be one of the best possible tools for diminishing the inequities of American society?? This strikes me as both disrespectful of teaching and arrogant in the extreme about what will solve problems of inequality.

    The idea that teachers should be focused on “creation of identities” instead of actually teaching reading or history or science is horrifying to me. How condescending to students, who are most likely perfectly capable of forging their own identities–and how useless to them, since what they actually need is knowledge.

  2. I think a central tenet of the various social justice models is that “equality” is to be achieved only by political action, not by individual effort. It seems to be a circular way to admit that all kids are not equal in self-control, ability or motivation, so inequalities must be addressed outside of self-discipline and academic knowledge and skills; therefore, there’s no need to teach or require any of it. Only leftists, ed schools and their fellow travelers could even pretend to believe such twaddle.

  3. Mark Roulo says:

    Lets try changing the provided quote: “The function of DOCTOR education is to launch the candidate on a lifelong path of learning, distinct from knowing, as actual knowledge is perceived as too fluid to be achievable.”


    It is pretty obvious why this sounds like a bad idea for doctors. Why does this sound like a good idea to the folks running teacher colleges? Do they *REALLY* think that how to successfully teach things like how-to-read to 6 year old changes so quickly that there is no point in addressing it?

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    This article is incorrectly cited. It came from The Onion.
    Please. It came from The Onion.

  5. Physicians not only reject the (idiotic) assertion that, “Actual knowledge is too fluid to be achievable”, they are required to; (1) pass two sections of the National Board exams, during and at the end of med school, which are required for licensure, (2) do well enough on the annual specialty in-service exams to continue their specialty training, (3) pass both written and oral specialty board certification exams, which are required for hospital privileges, and (4) update their knowledge regularly, by attending meetings where new clinical information is presented and at which tests must be passed on every presentation, in order to receive credit, which is required for licensure. In addition, specialty boards require re-certification every 10 years, by examination. Even if one’s practice is limited to a subspecialty (such as urologic oncology), the re-certification exam covers all of urology. Such exams are very serious business, because failure usually means loss of hospital privileges. A close relative’s dad just passed his emergency medicine re-certification, after spending a year studying for it.

    The rejection of the idea that teachers must have mastery of academic content and know the most effective way to teach it goes a long way to explain the current state of education, despite (or perhaps because of) the uncounted boatloads of taxpayer money spent on it. And, yes, I too wish this was from The Onion, but ed schools were academic outcasts even in the 50s and they’ve been getting steadily worse since the 60s.

  6. Nursing has many of the same kinds of knowledge requirements as medicine; a serious licensing exam required for practice, continuing education requirements for maintaining licensure, specialty certification programs requiring passage of content knowledge exams, regular re-certification exams and clinical practice requirements. The same is true for accounting. Ed schools need to have their feet held to the fire on the issue of academic content knowledge and effective instructional methods. Better yet, close them all.

  7. Foobarista says:

    Barf. Close ’em all. They’ve all been taken over by Ayers acolytes.

    Who knows? In a few decades, I’m sure Dzokhar will be running what used to be called a normal school. After all, he’s got the bomber terrorist line on his resume covered.

  8. Talk like that can get you put in jail these days! I’m sure all of you are on watch lists now…

  9. Mark Roulo…and we could also require professors and administrators at “ed schools” to visit only doctors trained by that method.

    I saw an article somewhere suggesting that nursing education in the UK actually *is* going down that road.

  10. “… actual knowledge is perceived as too fluid to be achievable.”

    Anti-intellectualism at its worst. Concepts like this pave the road to an Orwellian hell.

  11. Correction: In (2); a specific score on the annual, national exam for residents (each specialty has its own) is not required for continuing in residency, but will certainly result in pressure to do better the following year.

    Also, I forgot that there are three exams for licensure; the two I mentioned and one which is taken at the end of their first post-graduate year (formerly called internship).

  12. facebook_donna.richardson.9231 says:

    “Actual knowledge is perceived as too fluid to be achievable.” In other words, ed schools teach their victims NOTHING ABOUT THE CONTENT AREA they are supposed to teach–in fact, they have thrown out courses that would include specific preparation of content in a discipline. Since the ed professors know zip about math, literature, or history, why should their students? Terrifying.

    • My college roommate was a secondary ed major, who discovered too late that the number of academic credits for a major or minor in the ed school was exactly HALF of the requirements in the College of Arts & Sciences. The difference was made up by ed-school BS, delivered by the worst teachers in the university, By the time my roommate discovered this, she would have had to take another year of school. she had had enough of the ed world; she never taught a day of school.

  13. Laurel Langford says:

    In defense of us teacher educators, the teaching techniques classes (at least in Math, at least at my institution–a smaller public institution, not in New York) is all about teaching future teachers how to teach the content effectively. As I read between the lines of the New York university statement it’s quite possible that their teaching techniques course also takes that mission seriously, but (truth in advertising) no matter how much instruction, advice, and practice we give you, a 1-2 semester long techniques course is never going to tell you everything you’ll need to know for every course you’ll be called upon to teach.

    I’m sure there are professors and programs out there that devote their classes to creating philosophies and encouraging activists (I’ve seen a few of those), but most of us are much too busy making sure our students have thought through the strategies and pitfalls of how to teach multiplying negative numbers.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      “In defense of us teacher educators, the teaching techniques classes (at least in Math, at least at my institution–a smaller public institution, not in New York) is all about teaching future teachers how to teach the content effectively.”


      What textbook do you use? And who is the target audience? K-5 teachers? Middle school? High school?

    • So your implication, since you seem reticent to come right out and lay a claim, is that the school in which you teach is representative of ed schools nationwide? That is, I believe, an accurate interpretation of “In defense of us teacher educators”.

      If that is what you’re about then you’re wrong and the evidence, if you’re willing to accept its existence, is all around.

      Ed school graduates, for instance, don’t enjoy differing rates of pay or hiring depending on their alma mater. A teaching certificates a teaching certificate regardless of the school in which the proto-teacher spent served their sentence.

      Similarly, ed schools that are centers of philosophy- and activist-creation, rather then teacher education, aren’t shunned by prospective students looking to enter the profession nor are their graduates shunned by school districts.

      That means that if you do work at an ed school that turns out teachers that hit the ground running, and as a result you’re proud of your work, then lucky you but we both know that you, like your students, don’t get any professional respect for your efforts. The ed schools that disdain teaching content and skill aren’t inconvenienced in the least by their inferiority and given the way public education’s currently structured that’s the proper outcome.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        For what it’s worth, at my high school, where you went to ed school makes a big difference in the likelihood you will be hired.

        • Sadly, it’s worth no more then the importance an exceptionally effective teacher places on educating kids, i.e. it’s the exception, not the rule and it’ll always be that way within the current, district-based structure.

  14. Cranberry says:

    If accurate, this explains single-handedly the reasons for the reform movement in education, NCLB, and the Common Core.

  15. Stacy in NJ says:

    Teaching as a profession would best be served by an old fashioned guild structure – not union structure, which is indifferent to quality. When masters jealously guard the reputation of their profession they’d never dream of putting a poorly trained teacher in a classroom. I’d prefer the prissy, picky, exact standards of an old pro. New teachers should be tortured by a master teacher in much the same way medical interns are tortured by experienced doctors. The structure of medical training in the US has retained much of its guild nature, and this is the reason physicians and nurses enjoy a higher level of respect, imo. The training of teachers in Germany retains much of its guild structure.

    • Cranberry says:

      Teachers are unionized in Germany. See: gew.de

      German teacher education is strictly regulated by the education ministries of the various Bundeslaender. Only students who pass the Abitur (drawn from the top third of the population) are permitted to train to be teachers at German universities.

      Training for primary school teachers takes 3.5 years at university. For lower secondary teachers, university training lasts 3.5–4.5 years with two further years practical training in school settings. For upper secondary school teachers, training takes 4.5 years at university, then a further 2.5 years practical training in a school setting.

      Teacher training for all types of schools is regulated by Land legislation. Responsibility for teacher training rests with the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder which regulate training through study regulations and examination regulations. Examinations (First and Second Staatsprüfung) are conducted by the state examination authorities or boards of the Länder.