Teacher ed goes online (and mostly for-profit)

Online teacher education is booming,reports USA Today, which has been crunching U.S. Education Department data.

Virtually unknown a decade ago, big online teacher education programs now dwarf their traditional competitors, outstripping even the largest state university teachers’ colleges.

. . .  four big universities, operating mostly online, have quickly become the largest education schools in the USA. Last year the four — three of which are for-profit — awarded one in 16 bachelor’s degrees and post-graduate awards and nearly one in 11 advanced education awards, including master’s degrees and doctorates.

A decade ago, in 2001, the for-profit University of Phoenix awarded 72 education degrees to teachers, administrators and other school personnel through its online program, according to federal data. Last year, it awarded nearly 6,000 degrees, more than any other university.

Most new teachers earn bachelor’s degrees in education at traditional colleges, such as Arizona State, the nation’s leader. “But online schools such as Phoenix and Walden University awarded thousands more master’s degrees than even the top traditional schools, all of which are pushing to offer online coursework.”

Of course, if districts stopped paying teachers more for master’s degrees, the master’s market would collapse.

For-profit colleges, hit hard by the Harkin report for high tuition and low graduation rates, do no worse than public colleges and universities that admit all applicants, a defender argues.

Educating good teachers

Rejecting Michigan’s teacher licensing rules, Hillsdale College reinvented teacher education, writes Daniel Coupland. Since the program is now unaccredited, Hillsdale-trained teachers can work only at charter or private schools.

Future teachers “need a broad liberal arts education” and “deep understanding” of an academic discipline, Coupland writes. All would-be teachers, including elementary teachers, major in an academic field. All learn how to teach by working in “a real classroom with real students under the tutelage of a master teacher.”

We decided to eliminate methods classes and courses in educational psychology and technology. Because the state had such a heavy hand in dictating these classes (enforcing their “standards”), much of the content was irrelevant or antithetical to the mission of both the college and the department.

Philosophy of Education, Explicit Phonics Reading Instruction and Children’s Literature were made “much more content-driven and more demanding in terms of reading, discussion, and writing” to match the rigor of the college’s other courses.

The Education Department worked with the English Department to design an English grammar course for future teachers. “Language is the most important tool of the teacher’s trade.”

Instead of passing a paper-and-pencil test, would-be teachers are submitting lesson plans, homework assignments and videos of their teaching to earn a license, reports the New York Times.

New York and up to 25 other states are moving to the Stanford-designed Teacher Performance Assessment model.

“It is very analogous to authentic assessments in other professions, in nursing, in medical residencies, in architecture,” said Raymond L. Pecheone, a professor of practice at Stanford who leads the center that developed the new assessment.

. . . a teacher’s daily lesson plans, handouts and assignments will be reviewed, in addition to their logs about what works, what does not and why. Videos of student teachers will be scrutinized for moments when critical topics — ratios and proportions in math, for instance — are discussed. Teachers will also be judged on their ability to deepen reasoning and problem-solving skills, to gauge how students are learning and to coax their class to cooperate in tackling learning challenges.

In New York, prospective teachers’ work will be graded by “trained evaluators who have been recruited by the education company Pearson.” That’s spurred resistance from education professors, who complain their role is being undermined and “outsourced.”

At the University of Massachusetts, 67 of 68 students training to be secondary school teachers refused to submit videos of their teaching and a take-home test to Pearson evaluators.

British schools will train new teachers

Frustrated by ineffective teacher training colleges, Britain will let  schools train their own teachers, reports the Daily Mail.

More than half of student teachers will be trained by schools within three years, as under-performing colleges are denied funding and shut down.

Graduates who go directly to the toughest schools will be eligible for tax-free awards of up to £25,000 ($48,847)

. . . The move will sideline training colleges, which have expounded fashionable teaching theories – particularly in reading – instead of giving students a rigorous grounding in classroom practices.

“The idea is a simple one: take the very best schools, and put them in charge of teacher training and professional development for the whole system,” said Education Minister Michael Gove.

Schools will choose the teacher candidates they want to train and retain.

The largest grants will go to teacher candidates with a first-class degree in key subjects who train in schools where more than 25 per cent of pupils are eligible for free school meals. (In the U.S., most schools have more than 25 percent of students eligible for a free lunch.)

Teacher training colleges rated as “needs  improvement” in two consecutive inspections will be shut.

Teaching teachers to drive data

“Data-driven” schools need teachers who know how to use information on students’ learning to improve teaching, writes June Kronholz on Ed Next. Some schools hire Achievement Network (ANet) to teach teachers how to use data.

During the data meeting, teachers pored over a form called an “item analysis template”—downloaded from the ANet web site—that forced them to think through the test questions that had given their kids the most grief. “What were the misconceptions” that led so many students to choose the wrong answer, the form asked them to consider. What groups of students missed the answer? What did students need to know to get it right?

Next, they worked through a “reteach action plan,” also downloaded from ANet. How was the lesson taught originally, the form asked. How and when would it be retaught, and to whom—the whole class, a small group, individual children?

After reteaching, teachers give a short quiz to see if the new lesson was effective. Then they discuss the results.

Schools in ANet’s network model their teaching practices to other schools, asking teachers, principals and instructional coaches “to help one another figure out how to reteach a troublesome lesson,” Kronholz writes.

There’s lots of detail in the story on how this works.

Few teacher education programs prepare future teachers to use assessments to improve instruction, concludes the National Council on Teacher Quality in a new report. Only three percent of programs surveyed adequately prepare future teachers to use performance data to improve instruction, the report concluded. Another 24 percent were rated “partially adequate.”  One program out of 180 “prepares candidates to work collaboratively to dissect, describe, and display data that emerge from both in-class and standardized assessments.”

If not value-added, then what?

“Would-be reformers for getting waaaay ahead of themselves” in building systems around value-added data, writes Rick Hess. But value-added can be a useful tool, even if it’s not perfect. And what’s the alternative to value-added? Principals observing teachers in the classroom? Value-added haters don’t like that either.

Only peer review — teachers evaluating teachers — has support from “self-styled teacher advocates,” Hess writes. And peer review rarely has teeth.

. . . few peer review efforts have lived up to their billing. For instance, as Steven Brill has reported, the lauded Toledo peer review program — which has been credited with aggressively weeding out bad teachers — turned out, when studied for The New Teacher Project’s “Widget Effect to have removed just one tenured teacher (in a fair-sized, low-performing system) during the two years studied.

“Public educators who are paid with public funds to serve the public’s children ought to be responsible for how well they do their jobs,” writes Hess.

Low-stakes value-added analysis can provide useful feedback to teachers, writes Matthew Di Carlo on the Shanker Institute (affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers) Blog. Teachers need disaggregated data, he adds.

For instance, if a teacher is told that her English language learners tend to make less rapid progress than her native speakers, this is potentially useful – she might rethink how she approaches those students and what additional supports they may need from the school system. Similarly, if there are strong gains among those students who started out at a lower level (i.e., their score the previous year) and stagnation for those starting out at a higher level, this suggests the need for more effective differentiation.

In a few states, teacher education programs are analyzing graduates’ value-added data to identify weak areas writes Stephen Sawchuk on Education Week.

“It was frustrating at first. Based on earlier assessments, we always had exemplary status, and then to get these data showing some weaknesses—well, it was a shock,” said Gerald M. Carlson, the dean of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “But we ultimately said, ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves and see what we can find out.’ ”

. . . the school set up teams of faculty to look at the curriculum, switched the sequencing of elementary math courses, and is now requiring faculty members to spend more time observing student-teachers, Mr. Carlson said.

Students taught by the university’s elementary teachers struggled with essay questions, the value-added analysis showed. “The university’s teacher-educators have worked with colleagues from the liberal arts department to require more writing instruction in introductory English composition courses.”

 

UM crafts national standards for teacher ed

The University of Michigan’s TeachingWorks is developing national standards for teacher education, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Aspiring English instructors were supposed to be mastering their craft in the teacher education class Francesca Forzani observed.

Forzani, a former English teacher, looked on in horror as the students spent an entire semester debating what a high school reading list should look like. More contemporary or classical literature? Perhaps multicultural books?

“They never practiced anything as simple as introducing students to a text,” said Forzani, who observed the class as part of an auditing process.

Forzani, associate director of TeachingWorks, said education professors discuss issues and theories but devote too little time to the practical challenges of teaching. As a result, more than 60 percent of teachers say they weren’t prepared for the classroom in a federal survey.

TeachingWorks will stress “leading a classroom discussion, crafting small-group projects and conferencing with parents”  and 16 other teaching skills.

. . . the goal of TeachingWorks is to highlight traits that every good teacher needs, whether the fourth-grade math class they’re leading is in Tacoma or Tampa.

Forzani hopes TeachingWorks’ standards will be used not just by college-based teacher education programs but also by alternatives such as Teach for America.

Brown: New teachers need apprenticeship

Ed Week‘s Teaching Ahead asks young teachers how teacher preparation should be changed. Several teachers who started after a crash course in teaching over the summer say they needed much more time to learn the job, though a graduate of teachers’ education also says she wasn’t prepared for classroom realities.

Time to Practice Is a Need, Not a Luxury, writes Dan Brown, who taught fourth grade for a chaotic year in the Bronx with alternative certification and eventually earned a master’s degree in education.

Looking back, my ignorance was staggering. I had bought—with the help of my alternative-certification program designed to plug chronic staffing shortages—the most insidious myth about teaching: anybody smart and dedicated can swoop in and rock it.

. . . The most important baseline that preparation programs must provide incoming teachers is substantial time in a variety of classrooms before those rookies assume the reins. An entire school year of structured observation and apprentice-teaching must be standard.

Brown’s book on his first year of teaching, The Great Expectations School, provides a vivid picture of the challenging students, colleagues and administrators. Brown provides a lot of specifics on his teaching. I’d have loved more on how the school was staffed:  The school seemed to have more administrators and other staffers than classroom teachers. Brown got more feedback on the quality of the classroom bulletin board than he did on how to manage students or teach.

Teacher education in the classroom

Instead of a semester of student teaching, University of South Dakota education majors are working in elementary classrooms for a year under a pilot program, reports the Argus Leader.

“I can’t emphasize how wonderful this experience has been,” said Cassie Zomer, a 22-year-old teaching candidate from Brandon working in the third-grade classroom of teacher Julie Sehr at Harvey Dunn. “Everything that you never learn in a college classroom, you learn here. And the collaborating … is huge.”

. . .  these education majors started in August before the students even began to show up.They helped to set up the classrooms. They greeted children when they walked through the door. They have intervened with the behavior problems, developed and taught lessons and communicated with parents from the start.

A foundation grant pays for an experienced teacher to mentor the teaching interns.

The university hopes to expand the program to include aspiring middle and high school teachers.

Via The Quick and the Ed.

Flipping teacher education

Let’s flip teacher education, proposes Justin Baeder.  Now education schools take in $20,000 per teacher candidate for providing classes, while school-based mentors are paid $50 to $500 per intern.

 What if teacher education were done by master teachers who currently work in schools (perhaps part-time, perhaps full-time with assistance), who could supervise all aspects of the teacher’s internship?

Say a master teacher obtains accreditation to take on three interns at a time, and charges them $10,000 or $20,000 each (or better yet, charges a third party such as a school district or foundation). Over the course of the year, this master teacher supervises their teaching, reviews and provides feedback on their academic work, and ensures that they emerge from the program ready to teach.

All of the content that’s currently taught on college campuses could be delivered online, Khan-Academy style, and the candidates’ work could be scored by the mentor teacher, who can make better connections to their daily teaching practice.

Teachers, what do you think?

American Educator: Content matters

The new American Educator includes Jeffrey Mirel on Bridging the “Widest Street in the World,” (pdf), the divide between education school professors and their liberal arts colleagues.

Instead of continuing to debate the relative merits of pedagogy versus content, professors on both sides should realize that prospective teachers need to know not only their subject matter, but also how to teach it so students will understand.

Lauren McArthur Harris and Robert B. Bain write on Pedagogical Content Knowledge for World History Teachers (pdf).

Deborah Loewenberg Ball and Francesca M. Forzani write on Building a Common Core for Learning to Teach (pdf). They see the Common Core State Standards as an opportunity to establish “a common core of professional knowledge and skills for prospective teachers.”