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Teacher-Preparation Programs Need Overhaul

Over the years, traditional teacher preparation programs have been rightly criticized in many cases for failing to do their job ("Ideology Not Evidence: What We (Don't) Know about Independent Teacher preparation programs," National Education Policy Center, Sept. 8).  That's largely because they have placed inordinate emphasis on theory and not on practice. 

In reaction, a move has been underway to deregulate the process, expanding alternative routes.  These would bypass colleges and universities.  I understand the anger and frustration behind the change.  With the exception of actual student teaching, so much of the other requirements for a teaching license is useless.  But before throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I hope we will take a closer look at what is needed.

I propose exposing prospective teachers to the realities of the classroom much earlier.  During the beginning of their junior year of study for their bachelor's degree, students should be required to observe public school classes in their major for a stipulated number of hours.  That exposure alone will help them decide if teaching is a realistic choice.  If they still want to make teaching a career, they can then work with licensed teachers as their aides and take the necessary courses for eventual licensing.

I don't think there is anything special about independent teacher preparation programs.  Such widely publicized programs as KIPP and Teacher for America shortchange new teachers by providing them with too few hours of preparation.  They may appeal to college graduates looking for a faster way to qualify for a license, but I question their worth.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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