Education Secretary Arne Duncan had some pretty tough words for teacher colleges at a speech he gave at the Curry School of Education, in Charlottesville, Va., on Friday:
"In far too many universities, education schools are the neglected stepchild. Often they don't attract the best students or faculty. The programs are heavy on educational theory—and light on developing core area knowledge and clinical training under the supervision of master teachers.
"Generally, not enough attention is paid to what works to boost student learning—and student-teachers are not trained in how to use data to improve their instruction and drive a cycle of continuous improvement for their students. ...
"In all but a few states, education schools act as the Bermuda Triangle of higher education—students sail in, but no one knows what happens to them after they come out. No one knows which students are succeeding as teachers, which are struggling, and what training was useful or not."
Yow. I haven't heard anything like that since Rod Paige was in office.
The timing was interesting, too; the speech was just a week after the department released $43 million in new Teacher Quality Partnership grants, especially for residency programs. These dollars largely went to schools of education. That's partly because the Higher Education Act requires such institutions to be involved in the funded partnerships, while it was optional for the partnerships to include nonprofit groups. Still, some of the other nonprofit groups that helped launch the idea of the residency program were left out of the funding. (Boston, anyone?) It will be interesting to see which partnerships are approved in the second slate of grants.
Duncan is scheduled to give what is billed as a "major" address on teacher preparation later this month at Columbia University's Teachers College. What else will he have to say about the schools that still prepare the majority of our nation's teachers?