Nearly one in five Harvard students apply to Teach for America, but very few want to train as teachers, says Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan. “He hopes that eventually between five and 10 percent of the class will go through the undergraduate teaching program,” reports Eleanor Barkhorn in The Atlantic.
There’s “a long-standing institutional snobbery” about teaching writes Barkhorn.
As Walter Isaacson put it at this year’s Washington Ideas Forum, there’s a perception that “it’s beneath the dignity of an Ivy League school to train teachers.”
Teach for America has helped change that perception. “I think TFA has done a lot in terms of elevating the profession of teaching and elevating the importance of public education and education generally,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in conversation with Isaacson, CEO of The Aspen Institute, and Ryan.
Cornell has dropped undergraduate teacher-training, said Weingarten, a Cornell alum. “We say education is really important, but here you have the land grant institution of New York State that has eliminated teacher-training programs. If we don’t actually have real preparation like Finland and Singapore do that really teaches teachers how to teach … then what are we doing?”
In Finland and Singapore, only the best students can qualify as teachers. Finland combines master’s degree studies with supervised practice. In Singapore, master teachers mentor novices for several years.