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Duncan Has Harsh Words for Teacher Colleges


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?


Mr. Duncan needs to work on his metaphors a bit. The point of a Bermuda Triangle is that things go in and DON'T come out. The failure to track Ed. grads is a university-wide issue, across all degree foci, not specific to Education. Indeed, I'm guessing that science and math degree programs have even less knowledge of where their students land and how they fare. And at least in Illinois, we actually have reasonable data about the early career trajectories of Illinois education graduates. The problem is not just data about early career teachers - it is also a lack of substantive and targeted support for new teachers once they leave their training programs.

I agree with his points about greater rigor and clinical support, but he seems to miss the point that these Ed Degrees are undergraduate, not graduate degrees. Clinical experiences are the exception across most undergraduate concentrations. If he is serious about growing clinically educated teachers at scale - his "army" (oy!) - he better get serious about investing in the clinical capacity of undergraduate teacher prep programs. There are plenty of promising examples of well grounded, clinically capable programs around the country now, including UIC, that take urban education very seriously. It is genuinely disappointing to hear Arne Duncan parroting such blanket disregard for the efforts of public sector teacher preparation efforts, particularly given his own dependence on such programs to drive higher teacher quality here in Chicago. But not surprising given the pervasive influence that the privatization argument appears to have gained in Washington across party lines.

I can't be blamed for my students who come to me hungry, homeless, abused, and otherwise damaged and depressed. I do the best I can for them, but I do not, and should not choose my students. They all deserve the finest education I can provide.

Teacher colleges teach the students who come to them. They can certainly be choosy about who they admit, but they can't be blamed for failing to attract top candidates to a profession that--given the demands in education and hours/week--is underpaid and generally disrespected.

If we want better teachers in the future, we will have to pay for better teachers. Mine is the last generation that benefitted from women who had few professional options and men on the GI Bill. If I were a student today my advisor would steer me to another program. I would have gone to achitecture school or become an engineer. Few students with such options choose teaching today--and why should they?

D.I.T.T.O. to everything Jan had to say.

I have been teaching middle schoolers (whew) for a dozen years and just now hit $40,000. With the demands placed on teachers today, and with the pressures of society on modern youth, teaching is one of the hardest jobs there is.

Rigor....a word that is popular right now. But the rigor needs to be in core knowledge of subject matter, not in goobledy-gook theory, all of which sails out the window when the realities of the classroom set in. Core knowledge, behavior interventions, love of both children and subject matter...all are essential. But why would a math major go into teaching? Why would a biology major go into teaching? Economics sends these folks into an arena where there is money that will support a family.

But I do indeed believe that the colleges of education could do a whale of a better job. First start...require that all faculty do a full year classroom rotation in a public school, and only then will they GET IT. Generally, faculty is far removed from the real world classroom...data, PDAS, prof dev, yadayadayada, nonsense.

I agree that more emphasis should be placed on teacher prep, but draw the line when teachers point a finger at the students and begin to complain about the student and the condition they are when received by us. We must be reminded that we have or share unfettered access to students for at least 12 years and it is our responsibility to shape and mold them into what they should and want to be.

Our past sin is that we as teachers have acquiesced to administrators and politicians with their political agendas and to students with their demands and need for mothering attention and ego type blessings, and their need for self actualization and other neurotic demands. Parents have and always will have a bias for their own children – some more than others. We as teacher should have recognized this and used it to motivate rather acquiesce to it. If we have to teach the parents, we must do that also. Here, we are talking about the true and difficult task of being a teacher and how the teacher colleges must prepare us to teach.
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Author, “Prelude to Chaos”

Jan wrote, "If we want better teachers in the future, we will have to pay for better teachers". I agree, but realistically this country will never pay teachers at a rate approaching other competing professions, and with the structure set up as it is right now, probably can't. Therefore, what should be addressed immediately is the question of conditions. Ironically, teaching was a far more desirable occupation in terms of conditions 20 or 30 years ago. Teachers today in many schools have become security guards without the authority to enforce rules or rigor. They are blamed for poor achievement both individually and as a group. Their job requirements are a nebulous, growing mass of paperwork, data analysis, individualization without sufficient targeting, and cheerleading. What was most disappointing about George Bush and the Republicans is that while they talked about personal responsibility, the No Child Left Behind Act put no requirements on students and parents and the right wing did nothing to back up its mythical commitment to smaller government or less spending. What's most disappointing about Obama and Duncan is that they are continuing the trend of focusing on teachers (which is fine), but without holding superintendents, principals, students, and parents equally accountable, and failing to address the erosion of the status of teaching as a profession. In the end, without getting "student-centered" on policy, assessment, and accountability, American education will continue to lose ground.

As a teacher educator, I see the best and brightest entering our profession. One can always distinguish a teacher educator from a p-12 practitioner. Rarely does one see a teacher educator bashing the profession, yet some classroom teachers, and Mr. Duncan act as if teacher educators have never taught p-12 students. Are teacher educators envied by classroom teachers and superintendents? It's unfortunate that the teaching profession which is dominated by females take such a beating by politicians and even p12 practitioners. Any profession dominated by females is lower salaried. Education is the profession upon which the remaining professions are built. Mr. Arne Duncan's comments makes him appear quite uncouth and unlearned about the foundations and history of education.

We are getting the best and brightest young people to go into the teaching profession. I just finished talking with a sharp, young teacher intern who is excited about going into the profession. The 1986 A Nation Prepared publication provides the framework for professionalizing teaching. If teacher educators and p-12 teachers are given the same financial considerations as the masculine professions -- medicine and law -- then the framework will be actualized and fully implemented.

Does Teachers College, Columbia University seem an odd place to discuss teacher preparation? Isn't it solely a graduate school of education? Does it prepare undergraduates to teach?

Many good comments above. Being a teacher educator with 33 years experience in the p-12 classroom, I see many highly qualified and motivated students enter the profession because they want to make a difference and they enjoy working with young people. Part of the tragedy is that once in the profession many districts do little to mentor them. I understand that many promising teachers leave within five years. This may be for a variety of reasons - low pay, frustrating bureaucracy, classroom management difficulties, etc. We have quality young people opting to become teachers but we must do a much better job of keeping them in the profession.

I don't get it. Secretary Duncan chops ed schools. Then he shovels out money for Residencies at ed schools. Is this "Change we can believe in?"

People inside and outside of ed schools have moaned and groaned about ed school faculty and students for 100 years. Teachers are said to "resist change." The reality is that teachers tend to buy in or bow to whatever fad is popular. Universities and teacher ed colleges don't resist change. They just don't change.

I agree, teachers are definately disadvantaged when it comes to pay, yet one can immediately tell which teacher is in it for the money or the love of teaching. Politicians and government need to stay our of education, they have proven to us they can't run the government, what makes them think they can run education? and make the mayor of large cities over the school board? Give me a break. Why doesn't the government let schools do what they are meant to do, education children and quit mandating programs, underfunded programs at that. Parents need to step up to the plate and assume their responsability regarding social ills.

Most US teachers' colleges have their ankles and wrists tied by State rules and regulations. There is very little wiggle room and to add injury to insult, the tuition and fees for these top-down requirements are on the increase. The student teaching paper work alone would discourage the most enthusiastic teacher trainee. So many changes are needed - and it is hard to know where to start.

I can't believe Obama picked this guy over Linda Darling Hammond. I can't see her ranting on ignorantly like this.

As a teacher, I'm tired of being bashed by the right-wing media. To have the President and his men pile on is just too much.

I dare Obama or Duncan to sit down and talk to me before they attack teachers, unions, schools, mom or apple pie again.

Ed Week, you have permission to release my email address to the white house or Dept. of Education if either of them would like to be educated on the latent effects of their stupid ideas.

It seems to me NCATE has not done a very good job of getting out information about the kinds of data required of institutions. It speaks to all the areas Duncan says teachers/schools do not accomplish.

Mr. Duncan is no authority on teacher education or education in any sense of the word. He has never been a teacher nor ever received a teaching certificate, much less an administrative license.
How he became CPS CEO (not superintendent) is simple. He agreed to privatize our public schools under the Renaissance 2010 plan and let the financial/business sector finally enter the market for profit. "About 17,000 US public school districts with 95,000 schools provide education for 50 million K-12 students and have a combined annual budget of $350 billion." Less than one percent of all schools districts serve 22% of students, and these disticts are high-poverty, high-minority districts. (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/100_largest/
It's called target marketing. Duncan's sale of our urban schools to private corporate interests may well be President Obama's Achilles' heel come next election.

I've read complaints about low teacher pay for decades. I assumed these complaints were accurate. I was astounded when I read teacher salary data published by the American Federation of Teachers.

The average teacher salary in 2006-07 was $51,009, an increase of 4.5% in one year. The average salary for beginning teachers was $35,284, an increase of 6.2% in one year. (This data did not include benefits).

By contrast, the average pay for child, family and school social workers was $41,920. The average pay for medical and public health workers was $46,320. These employees work 12 months without Christmas breaks, spring breaks, summer breaks, etc.

While teachers made gains, the wages of U.S. workers and other government employees dropped. The average salaries of all U.S. workers dropped 1.5% to $46,954. The average salaries of government workers dropped 1.8% to $50,899.

Given this data, I have to conclude that complaints about low teacher pay are inaccurate.
Source: 2007 Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends at http://www.aft.org/salary/index.htm

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