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Duncan to Reiterate Criticisms of Teacher Education


Education Secretary Arne Duncan doesn't appear poised to go easier on schools of education in remarks he's making this morning at Columbia University's Teachers College. As you may recall, his remarks earlier this month on the theme caught some flak from the teacher-ed community.

News of this morning's speech has already hit the wires, and here are some advance remarks we've gotten from the Department of Education:

"...by almost any standard, many, if not most, of the nation's 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom. America's university-based teacher-preparation programs need revolutionary change—not evolutionary tinkering."
"In my seven years as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools and in my current job, I've had hundreds of conversations with great young teachers. And they echo many of the same concerns about ed schools voiced in the Levine report and in earlier decades. In particular they say two things about their training in ed school. First, most of them say they did not get the hands-on teacher training about managing the classroom that they needed, especially for high-needs students. And second, they say there were not taught how to use data to improve instruction and boost student learning."

Duncan does seem to spread the blame for "mediocre" programs a little broader this time. He'll note that states haven't really done their part in closing down poor programs, and that universities often treat the programs as "cash cows" and direct resources to more prestigious departments. Teacher tests don't measure how well teachers actually teach, he adds. And districts often shortchange mentoring programs.

And he'll compliment the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education for its new reaccreditation standards and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education for getting behind new models, like the teacher-residency programs. And he adds, "I am optimistic that, despite the obstacles to reform, real change is under way."

Near the end of his speech, he says that strong preparation programs include a "strong, substantial" field experience, a focus on classroom management, and training for candidates on how to review and make use of student-performance data. He plugs the teacher residencies, which the department just spent millions of dollars to promote.

But am I the only one that sees a little bit of tension between the thrust of this speech and the proposed Race to the Top criteria? After all, under those proposals, states would get additional competitive points for having alternative routes to teacher certification. Though alternative routes vary, many of them don't have all that long of a student-teaching component. By comparison, in the residency model, candidates aren't the "teacher of record" until after they've spent a year under the tutelage of a full-time classroom teacher.

Maybe the administration feels both routes can be successful, but this difference does seem to complicate states' abilities to hold both types of programs to the same set of high standards.

Are you a professor or dean at a college of education? Are you listening to the speech or watching it in person? Want to share your comments? Post them here, or e-mail me directly at [email protected]

We'll also have a full story up for you later today.


I am neither a professor or dean at a college; I'm a high school department chair who sees the flaws in college education courses daily. I would like to know what per cent of colleges of education have a core requirement for new teachers that includes instruction on how to use reading strategies daily in their classrooms to help their students, regardless of academic discipline, access the textbook and supplemental materials that teachers use. Since high school students are reading to learn, I'm befuddled by the lack of reading strategies new hires have at their command to help their students learn. As a result high schools invest a lot of money in training new hires to learn and use reading strategies to help their high school students learn and to do well on state assessements and meet NCLB goals. Shouldn't colleges of education bear this reponsibility?

As a piece of a much larger puzzle, teacher education programs could and should do more to prepare teachers. But please add to this list the 20,000 hours these teachers spent in classrooms learning about the educational system. Or add to this the puzzle state license requirements that may not lead to good teaching. Or to the focus on decontextualized "data" passing for learning outcomes. No year-long teacher education program creates great teachers nor should it. Maybe the more pertinent question is, how can teacher education programs partner with undergraduate educational degrees and experiences, with post college mentoring and training, with a requirement that people with an initial license get their master's in 3-4 years. Maybe the key to great teachers is a lifetime of learning--starting in school.

The irony here is inescapable! Slamming teacher preparation programs as inadequate while at the same time singing the praises of Teacher for America, or The New Teacher Project, gives me pause while LOL! The five weeks of 'teacher' training that those 'teachers' receive are seen as more than adequate to Arne, yet year-long teacher preparation programs are seen to be lacking? Huh??? The logic escapes me! {eye roll, sigh} Arne wants to privatize public education; it's as simple as that. Our Secretary of Education is working above his level of competency and America's children will bear the consequences of his actions.

I too am neither a professor or dean at a college, but I have recruited, trained & supported teachers for hard to staff districts, as well as recruited, trained and supported new teachers in both some university based teacher education program(s) and some alternative route(s). What I am often struck by is the polarizing perspectives of many individuals from both traditional university teacher education programs and alternative route teacher education programs. Sadly, often times, quite productive discussions digress quickly into an unproductive "us" versus "them" approach. It is my hope that one day all committed educators can come together a bit more to figure out how to more productively share best practices &further research focusing on using data better to drive strategies and evaluate methodologies. Even as a high school teacher when I began my career, I noticed how few and far between the instances were when colleagues felt the need to cite specific data…it does need to become part of the dialogue in K-12 schools, within education schools and it is there that I agree with Duncan. Nor does a strong focus on student achievement & using data effectively have to be mutually excluded from a strong focus on sound & nurturing pedagogy. I was recently fortunate to attend the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) where I was struck by how many fabulous educators and theorists have been continually refocusing themselves around renewal rather than reform. The real leaders in this quest have wisely acknowledged that there are no easily identifiable villains…just like there are certainly no easy answers...just a lot of hard work ahead…setting higher standards for ourselves & our students and the even harder work of getting there. What I must emphasize is that there are truly excellent university teacher education programs (I work for one) that incorporate a great deal of practical hands on experience. There are also excellent alternative route teacher education programs out there producing excellent teachers (I’ve worked for those too). Sadly, I have also had the first hand experience that there are also very poorly designed and implemented university teacher education programs & very slapped together alternative route teacher education programs as well. The spectrum is wide and the landscape is vast. I would simply hope that we could collectively get past the over-simplifying of the debate and get to the real work that needs to be done ahead. The students in all American schools deserve our best efforts; we have no better incentive to make much needed improvements. These improvements (and there are many) will need to come from everyone…as someone has already coined the phrase “It takes a village” and this is no exception. We need to come together and roll up our collective sleeves. Thanks John Goodlad et all for providing a great model through the NNER of how to best come together to do this all important work.

I have been a principal of an elementary school for the last 19 years.
We have spent thousands of dollars on staff development on teachers new and old. We are now focusing on reading and math and striving to make AYP. I'm still doing staff development. Teachers are leaving colleges not prepared to teach or to deal with student behavior.

As a long time educational specialist, I am frequently amazed that little or no strategies for learning are evident within the classroom. University systems know the evidence that an educator must be a constructivist if the student is to be taught to think at higher levels. However, there is little attention to teaching so that the brain is involved in the learning process - WOW! - That means that teachers are still pouring in curriculum expecting it to do the job. The same applies to creating an emotional state in the classroom so that learning takes place. Gain, this means using brain-based techcniques to calm the student, increase focus and attention and create a readiness for learning. THIS CANNOT BE DONE BY POURING INFORMATION INTO THE BRAIN OF THE STUDENT EXPECTING THE CURRICULUM TO DO THE JOB. Instead, we must collaborate and involve the student in every stage of the learning, social and behavioral process. Where better to do this than at the University level??????????????

Does anyone remember taking Educational Statistics and learning how to construct formative and summative tests? And then, what a great idea...using the results to inform re-teaching, remediation, identifying gaps in instruction!

In a comment here a few minutes ago, Tanya Goldbeck mentioned something about how university systems "know the evidence that an educator must be a constructivist if the student is to be taught to think at higher levels." Wow!
Constructivism is only one of several viable outlooks on how learning takes place. It is probably the newest, and since its ascension to the most highly regarded, we have seen education become increasingly less effective.
Pouring information into the brain is a myth. No educator believes that to be what he or she is doing. And too much of the research showing the effectiveness of constructivism demonstrate that it is probably the best approach for teaching freshman education students enrolled in research universities - a clear convenience sample for those publishing in the field.
There are many different students out there with various needs that will change as students move through various stages. The "construction" of constructivism requires a foundation of highly practiced facts and manipulations. This might mean that memorization and skill-building need to be in the picture. Over-reliance on constructivist educational methodologies will construct high level thinking with no supporting groundwork.

I am rather disappointed in Arne Duncan. I had high hopes for his leadership. While I concur with some of his points- I would charge that no program or institution will ever be perfectly effective. The way to seek and refine effectiveness is not to "bash" higher ed institiutions, teachers, and programs, but to build a groundswell of support for collaborative change. At the university I work for we are building university/school district partnerships that address many of the issues in Mr. Duncan's address. I know that many other high ed institutions have done the same-why not take the opportunity of having a public voice to create a climate for positive, collaborative realtionships between government/higher ed/schools to effect positive results in P-12 education?

Kathleen, NCLB accountability expects high schools to be 100% perfect by 2014. Shouldn't there have been university and school districts collaborating years ago? During my 15 years as a department chair it became very evident to me which universities were doing adequate teacher training and which ones were not. Needless to say I would have conversations with college supervisors about their student-teachers and their education programs. I offered feedback and became more selective in saying yes to mentoring student-teachers. However, I say adequate because the universities still are unable to send high school student-teachers with any background in reading strategies for high school disciplines and even fewer know how to teach high schoolers to write. Why is that? Is the study of educational philosophy or the history of education more important for university students interested in teaching to study?

I am an adjunct faculty member teaching a methods course at a college level AND a teacher in high school. The particular college I teach is a diploma mill, and I thought I was asked to bring some rigor AND current research to the table. However, I have found the college faculty to be less educated in education and more entrenched than my high school faculty. Their lack of current research is embarrassing. [Disclaimer: this is only one college and does not represent all ... however, it is the only one in the area]
However, I do have a concern at public schools are so trained in professional development "eduspeak" that we are missing the point of teaching... progressing achievement... in a subjecta area... but I suppose someone in an ivory tower will figure that out in a few years and write a dissertation, news articles, a PD program and all educators will sigh, "oh, yeah that's what I was thinking 3 years ago."
Tracey, I agree wholeheartedly with your feelings on TFA. I am insulted that Arne Duncan even validates the program. I would have a FIT if my child sat in a TFA class. Wonder if you'd like a surgeon in training?
I'd have to say that honestly, all of this frustrates me more than the kids I teach... the kids are my job satisfaction. Even the college ones who hate what I require but come back thankful that they are knowledgeable.

You make some good points above.
However, I also think that this can be helpful to you:
The book and Training Video: PREVENTING Classroom Discipline Problems

If you can get this book and video: [they are in many libraries, so you don't have to buy them] email me and I can refer you to the sections of the book and video [that demonstrates the effective vs. the ineffective teacher] that can help you.

If your library does not have them, you can get them at:


that are also used at this online course:

See: Reviews at: http://classroommanagementonline.com/comteach.html

If you cannot get the book or video, email me anyway, and I will try to help.

Best regards,


Howard Seeman, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus,
City Univ. of New York

Prof. Seeman
[email protected]


Was this symposium based on Alternative Certified Teachers...? Many ACT's are not familiar with many of the Reading pedagogies--it appears ACT's were prep to past the Certification to quickly enter the classroom...most of us who are graduates from the teacher program has been asked questions about practical applications of the reading process from ACT's. They are not fully equipped---therefore the school districts are making up for it academically and $$cost-wise. I never understood why equipped teacher from teacher colleges had to take a professional development in 'guided reading' this was apart of the teacher training...what a waste of time for teachers who are equipped and had many hours of field training and teacher intermship to step-ready to teach. Why are the government picking on college preps...it's not the colleges it's the Alternative Certification route 'under-preparing' individuals...who have no clue after they get inside the classroom.

It's not the Teacher Colleges, it the fast past Alternative Certification Routes that need to be examined more closely...this is an 'inconvenient' truth.

Let's be honest. Every school I have taught in has a different culture, and I have had to relearn how to teach based on the climate at that new school.
Most people can teach. Yes (I let the secret out). Most people can't convince 33 teens to sit in their seats, read and copy notes, or participate in a lab safely, or watch a program, without hitting their neighbor. That is where QUALITY professional development comes in. PD tailored for the teachers in the room, not canned, not goofy elementary school stuff repackaged for highschool. This is the role of the district, with quality, seasoned mentors, who can observe what is going on, and advise. That's why having a school climate of colleagiality is so important, because ultimately, you learn your best 'tricks' from your peers. Teacher's schools are only able to teach hypothetically, and theoretically. They can teach us the mechanics, like how to write a lesson plan. They can't teach you how to have a personality.
I have been in a family of 3 generations of teachers, and each of us has had to learn how to control a classroom on our own, even the best advice from my parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles didn't help. However,my best mentor has been my husband, also a teacher. Our conversations of 'what happened today' has been overwhelmingly the most useful professional development I could ever get!

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