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Is Teacher Education Failing?

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A high-profile new study has painted a bleak picture of the teacher-education field, saying that the majority of education schools offer low-quality programs that fail to prepare aspiring teachers for the classroom. Among other things, the report—by the former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, Arthur E. Levine—contends that most teacher-education programs have low admission and graduation standards, lack a cohesive approach to preparing educators, and have failed to keep pace with issues facing the nation's school system today.

What's your view? How effective are teacher-education programs today? What changes need be made? How best can new educators be prepared for the classroom?

90 Comments

What we need in our teacher education program at my state university is professors that have spent a minimum of 5 years teaching in a public school. The classes I've taken that have teachers teaching teachers have been useful and prepared me. The classes I've had headed by PhDs with little or no actual experience teaching in public schools is a lot of theory and talk, very little in the way of practical advice, and it is those teachers who in my opinion do not prepare me for the battles ahead.

"A majority of education schools offer low quality programs that fail to prepare aspiring teachers for the classroom." This is huge! What, we must ask, are the ramifications of this finding for children in urban school districts?

without having read the full article, my first reaction is to say that this type of comment is not very helpful. That is like saying, "Schools of medicine are failing." What is the real picture? What are the characteristics of effective schools of education? What can schools of education do to better prepare teachers for the 21st century? How does accreditation fit into this "bleak" picture? Are the failing schools getting a stamp of approval from NCATE and other accrediting agencies?
I agree that schools of education often have low admission standards (e.g., 2.5 GPA) and are notorious for waiving students into programs, but I know from my experience working with preservice teachers during their field-base course and student teaching that we do graduate many fine teachers. A big challenge I see is that, unlike other professional schools, we don't do a good job of weeding out students that should not be in the classroom. People in education are nuturers - they believe what they preach (all students can learn) -- the problem is that many smart people should not be in classrooms with children, but how do you really eliminate someone from a program because you sense emotional or psychological problems? Many don't want to make this call, so those people graduate and end up teaching (even when they can't keep their own life together). Well, enough for now. I just think a blanket statement like that coming from such a reputable educator is not fair, nor very useful - especially when politicians and the public have lost confidence in our system

I can't speak for teachers education, but if what is being said is true that teachers are entering the field not prepared I would believe it. The district my 3 kids are in are doing a poor job at educationg them. I have two kids with IEP's and they have failed at giving them the proper interventions in order to be successful in the educational environment. One of my cildren has dyslexia, and this district had no program in place to deal with his dyslexia. He is now in the 9th grade and I was told in 7th grade he reads at the 3-4th grade level. Since then I have been fighting the district to give him the correct intervention needed to catch up. According to the no child left behind act and IDEA this district does not have the proper programs in place for students with learning disabilities. I was told no to the district paying for outside tutoring with a Ortin Gilingham instructor to help him catch up closer to his pears, because they could not afford it. Yet at the Highschool they just purchased a large V sign that will be lit up every time a varsity team wins. I am sure that V sign will really help to educate students.

Teacher education is failing because we don't put our teacher candidates in the classroom until they student teach. Of course the theory doesn't make sense if youn cant experience it in practice. Teaching in NOT a bag of tricks, yet we spend out time asking teacher candidates to crank out lesson plans and focus on activities instead of requiring them to actually UNDERSTAND theory and its implications for the classroom. Teaching theory and encouraging reflective practice while students experience the classroom as interns from day one of their programs would the best preperation! One can open up any teacher manual or go online and find activities adn lessons for any topic;the key is knowing which of those activities or lessons are wothwhile learning experiences. We askt teachers to reinvent the wheel instead of asking them to be experts who can than aplly what they know about learning and the acquisition of knowledge to their teaching. As a professor of education, the best teachers that I have observed are those that understand and can apply theory, not the ones that can develop cute leasson plans.

I am currently in a teacher educatation program and I would echo Leah's opinion. The classes taught by PhD's are mainly theory which is a good foundation, however theories only go so far in the actual public school classroom. Many of the theories and strategies may work well in high SES schools but many of the public schools do not fall into this category.

I am currently at an inner city school where there is low parental participation and much apathy in the student body. I would love to have more strategies that would reach these students but we are taught strategies that are geared to students with high parental involvement and motivation. You could put anything in front of those students and they will learn. We need more strategies that will help engage and motivate the students nobody wants to teach.

I will not dispute the fact that our universities are not educating enough teachers to fill the classrooms of our schools annually; however, we continue to equate inadequate performance with everything except the real issue. Had NASA and our nation's Nuclear Arms programs been funded at the same level as universities who offer teacher education programs, we would see a different outcome. While money cannot purchase passion, commitment,and the intrinsic motivation to touch and change the lives of another human being, our nation has not always placed added value on education. Now we want to evaluate the output without looking at the input. No other area of preparation in any professional arena receives so little funding. If our teacher education programs are failing, perhaps it is because those empowered to make the major differences (our government, private industries and think tank consortiums) don't place the right kind of value on teaching.

I remained in education even though I worked 10 consecutive years without a salary increase. This practice is not a reality in all other professional areas. Many of our current schools would not pass inspection for nominal manufacturing operations, but such facilities appear to be just fine for warehousing our most valuable resources.

Yes, education in America needs to be revamped; are as a nation willing to put much needed money where our critics' mouths are?

To merely put all the eggs of responsibility in one basket - namely any given school of education - seems to be incredibly naive. Granted education is beset by enormous challenges, but the whole picture must be addressed. Is it fair to single out a particular facet of the problem? A long look at the school funding issue, the political irresponsibilities from our elected officials, the lack of school district support in teacher training, clinging to antiquated methodologies and modalities by educational reformers, the lack of parental involvement(especially in our urban districts), and the "sky is falling" mentality held by some of our colleagues, I feel, are all contributing factors to the current state of affairs in education.
It would be nice to be able to pin-point and then remedy a specific cause to any woes that beset education today, unfortunately, there is no "magic bullet" solution nor even readily identified single cause.

Pre-service teacher training does not adequately prepare an individual to enter the classroom and be successful. Most individuals have intellect/horsepower to be successful in school, but there are many aspects that affect their ability to learn and succeed in school.

You can use the following categories to list the issues that prevent an individual from reach their full potential. They include individual, family, school, and community-related factors.

Individual/Student Related
1. Poor school attitude;
2. Low ability level;
3. Attendance/truancy;
4. Behavior/discipline problems;
5. Pregnancy;
6. Drug abuse;
7. Poor peer relationships;
8. Nonparticipation;
9. Friends have dropped out;
10.Illness/disability;
11.Low self-esteem/self/efficacy; and
12.Living in unsafe enviromnent.

Family Related
1. Low socioeconomic status;
2. Dysfunctional homelife;
3. NO parental involvement;
4. Low parental expectations;
5. Non-English-speaking home;
6. Ineffective parenting/abuse; and
7. High mobility.

School Related
1. Conflict between home/school culture;
2. Ineffective discipline system;
3. Lack of adequate counseling;
4. Negative school climant;
5. Lack of relevant curriculum;
6. Passive instructional strategies;
7. Inappropriate use of technology;
8. Disregard of student learning styles;
9. Detentions/suspensions;
10.Low expectations; and
11.Lack of language instruction.

Community Related
1. Lack of community support services or response;
2. Lack of community support for schools;
3. High incidences of criminal activities; and
4. Lack of school/community linkages.

Where in the pre-service teacher training curriculum do soon-to-be classroom teachers learn how to deal with the above-mentioned issues?

Until we address these issues in pre-service teaching training, beginning teachers will struggle to succeed in helping the students learn.

Scott Fromader
Education Consultant
WI Department of Workforce Development
201 East Washington Avenue, Room E100
Madison, WI 53702
608 261-4863
608 267-0330 (fax)
e-mail: [email protected]

Please feel free to share my personal information with anyone.

Thanks for giving an opportuntity to respond.

As long as the emphasis is on this method or that method, teacher education and teaching itself will fail. Children are not data, and for every child who falls into a certain percentile showing success with a method, there are the others who represent the percentile for which the method does not work. School is no longer about learning and exploring. It is about grades and data and "the research shows". How many teachers excite and challenge their students? I have worked in special education for 25 years and year after year I get students who have never been taught how to think. You can teach methodology, but that is for the teacher who teaches to a select proportion of her class. You need all methodologies and the creative power to make up some of your own in order to reach every single student on some level, to awaken every single child with whom you come into contact. Graphs and methods and data just don't cut it in real time teaching. You all are just fooling yourselves. You have the data to look good but the kids don't know a thing and could care less. Teaching comes from inside you; methods are only the tools to facilitate how you express your own knowledge and enthusiasm. If you don't know how to think, courses taught by non-thinkers won't help, and you won't be able to help your students either.

I agree whole-heartedly. Something needs to be done from the moment a person turns in their application to want to become a teacher, then all the way thru the educational and practical process. I went through one of the best teaching programs in Texas - but after the 3 required courses to become a Kindergarten teacher - I still did not know anything about teaching Kindergarten. I learned through experience during my 1st 3 years teaching - Kindergarten. I have taught aspiring new educators, only to find out that the screening process for them to become middle school math teachers was dismal, at best. Many of these hard working, self paying people may never become teachers, because they lack the background math needed to pass the state test. Whose fault - the administration who accepted their money and told them, "Of course we'll teach you and help you. Thanks for your money - Here's directions to the math lab for help." I am also a mentor teacher for alternative certification teachers. The only thing I can say about that is if someone really wants to be a teacher, they better be ready for a lot of self learning, have a lot of self motivation to keep going, and be prepared to take any and all in-services and workshops to become the best teacher they can be. It certianly won't be handed to you. Not in this society. Minnesota has it right - a full year internship BEFORE they start the long road of classes.

It isn't really that teacher education is failing; rather it is that the field has become so complex that no education program can adequately prepare a new teacher.

I recently completed my credential program after many years in private industry. As I survey my first period class, I see 33 8th-graders, all labeled as at-risk. Every one has scored "below basic" or "far below basic" in the state's math testing. Eight students have IEPs. Perhaps 12 more are undiagnosed special needs. Two boys in the front are deaf and they are supposed to be learning third grade skills this year. A heavy-set boy near them can't subtract with renaming. Eight students (that I am aware of) are medicated for ADHD. Another front-row kid brags about his time in "Juvie" and mentions his probation officer almost daily. Two girls make a show of arriving 15 to 45 minutes late every day and disrupting the class as much as possible when they make their entrance. A boy on the other side has what is most likely Touret's Syndrome, but his father will not let him receive counseling or medical treatment. A high-functioning autistic child calls out random comments from his side of the room. ... After this I have four more classes and each has its share of extraordinary special needs.

Do I teach in the Bronx projects, or a boot camp school in Utah? No. This is a suburban school in an excellent neighborhood in sunny California.

I feel that any deficiency in my training was not the fault of my university. It was excellent. The fault lies in a system that places superhuman expectations on the classroom teacher. Somehow, we are supposed to deal with the drama, the anger, the history of failure, the imbalanced medications, the kids who haven't learned English, and teach them all square roots, Pythagorean theorem, and how to graph cubic equations -- unless they have IEPs saying that they will be learning to add, subtract and multiply positive whole numbers this year. When I walk into the classrooms of my more experienced peers, I see situations not terribly different from my own. I hope it isn't quite like this everywhere.

The education programs can begin preparing teachers with a semester of social work/psychology courses. It is vital that a teacher knows how to read a child's affect, and be equipped with the skills to identify common issues before they escalate.

In addition, teachers must now have good record keeping skills, which can be accomplished through a business course. They also need a detailed writing and communications course to conduct basic communication between resource staff, community leaders, teachers, students, and parents.

If teacher programs could begin to focus on these areas, we could begin to specialize our programs and move away from the one size fits all education delivery system.

In response to the comments above:
Question: If it takes a village to raise a child and the school is part of the village, why don't we take the community approach? If a parent is not available for whatever reason, who else can we depend on? There is no community totally worthless. Perhaps we need to leave the school buildings to learn the strengths of the community in which we teach. That goes for urban, rural, and suburban because they all have issues.

If a teacher enters a classroom, as many do, "one chapter ahead of the class" in a subject - how can we expect a quality educational experience? Having scanned the report findings - I'd add one more suggestion: tear down the education "schools", move the theorists into psychology, anthropology, statistics, and sociology; move the master teachers into their content disciplines; and ask the aspiring teacher to dive into an enriched, complex web of interdisciplinary studies designed to create a teacher with deeper understanding of content and a more complete understanding of the complex world the students negotiate on a daily basis. This will effectively weed out the low performers. While they're learning, apprentice students to classroom teachers (paying the teachers for their time, of course)and let them do their "rounds", much like interns in a hospital environment. In short, create an undergraduate experience that molds a fully integrated teacher ready for the challenges of the real world.

Only one problem - the number of qualified graduates is going to fall dramatically. Since education in this country is primarily a government monopoly, the market will not adjust to the shortage by raising salaries to attract qualified people to the profession.

Changing teacher education is only the first step in "professionalizing" education in this country. I doubt many fine engineers, lawyers, accountants - even some doctors would have chosen the daunting challenges of their academic disciplines without the promise of a better life at the end of the program. The notion that teachers must be an altruistic group of idealistic dreamers in a market driven society is simply fantasy. You want the best? Make it worth their time and effort.

I agree with Donnea Simon. I have a Masters degree in education and I'm certified in two states and a teacher who is going through an alternative certification program in Texas was hired over me. Now she does not have a certificate at the moment but she is getting paid to teach. On "Meet the Teacher Night" she had no idea what to do. She was not prepared at all for this night or so far anything. In my classes I had to take a year and a half of internship and 6 months of student teaching to prepare myself. I have attended workshops and paid out my own pocket, to attend in-service programs. I attended one of the best teacher preparation universities in Montana by doing this online and spending a lot of money flying back and forth from Texas to Montana so I could be a well-prepared teacher and know what is required of me before walking into that classroom before the first day of school.

Brett's comments strike home. The market is not allowed to function in our society due to the existance of public school and the monopoly it represents. That will continue to limit the quality of candidates for teaching. One of the criteria for effective teachers is the ability to make compelling and interesting presentations of core knowledge to students. But people with that talent more often become sales or sales related employees in other professions. If you doubt me, see how many teachers at your next open house make eye contact with the parents or take a few minutes to introduce themselves, pump their resume and "sell" the assembled with a sense of confidence that they are the kind of person a parent wants their child to be with for seven hours of their waking day.

I am a member of a consultative school board in a parochial system of 40+ schools and one of the things we talk about a lot is teacher formation, and with religious schools that is very important. But it is not to be neglected in any education experience. With the church, formation can at least be attempted using the guidelines of doctrine. With public schools and the random manner in which teachers are exposed to what passes for knowledge in most of the colleges in this country, a parent has little to hope for in the grab bag of graduates. They're likely to think John Lennon was the leader of the USSR, and that's okay because he wrote about "peace" and "love."

No wonder home education is growing as an option. Everything old IS new again!

As a senior mathematics secondary education major I have many times questioned other states and schools preparation programs. I'm a student in Pennsylvania and that's where I plan on teaching. The program I am enrolled in requires a 3.0 GPA and field experiences beginning Freshmen year with a minimum of 25 observation hours which grows each year including the requirement of teaching a unit during your junior year. I do feel that some teachers are not well prepared before teaching. At the same time I don't necessarily know that it is just preparation. I feel that it is a matter of the quality of students in the program. I know of at least three individuals enrolled in my school's program that cannot add fractions. I understand that most people struggle with math but my concern is that these students are Sophomores in COLLEGE!!!!! At some point in their schooling the teachers let them slide through the cracks. I think a big part of the problem is that teachers are required with the standards movement to teach so many things that teachers have to teach for quantity and not quality. In my opinion it should be more important that the students understand the basics and not be taught harder and more difficult concepts. I recently discovered that PA no longer requires a passing score on each of the Praxis I examinations. Instead students can pass with a certain cumulative score. This again is letting students slide through the program. A student could bomb the math exam but do well enough on reading and writing to boost his/her score to passing. In order for someone else to learn anything from a teacher, that teacher has to know the content and understand it. Anyone can say they want to be a teacher but it truly takes someone who wants to help others learn and someone who knows what he/she is talking about. At the same time there are some problems with the preparation process. Part of the issue of teachers failing has to do with being able to as my professors call it "wearing many hats". In today's classroom you are not just teaching your students. Through your teaching you have to be able to support, encourage, counsel, friend, parent, cheer, etc. your students. MOST education programs do not teach any of this. My professors discuss with us the problems that you can find in a classroom and they encourage us to complete a field experience where these problems run high. I spent an entire year in a classroom that you could compare to the movie "Dangerous Minds". I personally have learned more through my field experiences than in my courses. It is very difficult to criticize all programs when some are doing the right thing. I think that if there was a more consistent requirement system in all of the education programs this could be cleared up. It might also be helpful for the teacher education programs to contact current teachers and help find areas where students in education programs may need more training. Today's classroom has changed and it is not just a matter of teaching material. Since this is the case, all teacher education programs have to adapt their curriculum to correlate with this growing trend.

The failing of preservice teachers' education is a very tender spot for teachers in the education field. It tends to bring out a defensive reaction and one of denial. Many schools have great programs that offer vast amount of information but have forgotten that what preservice teachers' need most is practical knowledge. Theory and observation only open preservice teachers to the what ifs but actually have preservice teachers participate in classroom would be more helpful. Most often the answer that preservice teachers are given is "you know better once your in this or that situation on how to deal with it". This response is a disservice to the preservice teacher and also their students. There have also been different legislation that has passed that have tied the hands of teachers and do not live up to their names. Preservice teachers have to take responsibility for what they have not learned and become the better educator in spite of their education!

The article mentions "low admissions and graduation standards..." as a possible reason for this problem. As a student at Rowan University in NJ I've gone through the most intense education program around and I will be prepared to teach upon graduation. Even though I'm 40 years old and have worked with children for 23 years, I didn't begin my teacher education until age 37, 19 years after graduating high school. I spent 5 semesters at Camden County College in a top notch education program. I entered Rowan as a transfer student and already had 20 hours of in class observation time. The standards for admittance to the Rowan education program from community college is very competitive. I transferred a 3.66 G.P.A and know of someone with a 3.0 that didn't get in. Some of the responses above mentioned the actual "quality" of the teacher candidates and I couldn't agree more. When an 18 year old is placed in a program that requires time outside of the college classroom (field studies, observations, etc.) most often they are unprepared for the responsibility. I've worked with students over the past 3 years who don't purchase the appropriate books, lie about actual field time, sleep in class, miss class, and depend on others to carry them through on group projects. There will always be differing opinions on the topic, but it is a combination of many situations that shouldn't be blamed on the college. Place the onus on the teacher candidates who refuse to do the work required to become quality teachers.

My concern goes much deeper than educational systems preparing future educators. I'm concerned the entire educational system is out of touch with what the business community needs for both a current and future workforce. Until the fundamental disconnect between education, employment and economic development is resolved the educational systems (college or otherwise) may continue to prepare teachers who instruct in silos totally out of step with business needs.

I agree with Marian (as well as many others). Learning Educational Psychology meant nothing to me before I started teaching. The class was just another hurdle to be jumped to become a teacher. After a few years of teaching, I took an Ed. Psych. class as part of my Master's program. What a huge difference. The topics meant something because I could apply what I was reading to experiences that I had in my classroom. Most of the classes I took to get my teaching degree were truly worthless. The only ones that mattered were being in a real classroom with a real teacher.

I think what teacher education needs is a good balance between theory AND practice. I attended a very hands-on elementary education program (I was in the classroom by second semester freshman year), so I knew what I was getting into by the time I got to student teaching. However, the academic portion of the program was weak at best. We were required to take courses in all the disciplines - math, science, art, music, history, etc - only they were all special classes for ed students. The result is that we didn't really learn much except how to write more lesson plans. Science professors admitted they were dumbing down the curriculum since we were non-science majors, math classes never covered anything more advanced than fractal islands. While elementary teachers can't be expected to be an expert in every subject, all the lesson plan writing in the world doesn't help if you don't know the basic foundations of each subject area. It's also this lack of academic focus that gives the profession a bad name. While my peers studied and worked on complex projects, I was cutting out pictures for my bulletin boards. Who can blame them for thinking the ed majors were taking the easy way out?

Additionally, while my program did a great job of preparing me for classroom management, little was done to help us face the issues in classrooms today. Evaluation and accountability weren't even a part of my vocabulary back then. The only class that addressed "diversity" dedicated one or two class sessions to talking about how people are different. No talk about the issues surrounding bilingual education and immersion. No mention of the familial and cultural differences that impact the educational goals and paths of different students. And absolutely no glimpse into the policies and regulations that impact schools on a daily basis. If I got a classroom full of happy white kids in a well funded school, I was golden. Otherwise, there would be trouble.

Teacher education needs to recognize that schools and classrooms do not operate inside a bubble - they are fluid institutions that are impacted by the community, the government, and world we live in.

Thank goodness someone is talking about this! I am an elementary educator, so I can only address the needs of people who will work with grades K-6. Here are some suggestions:
1. Offer the majority of teacher training classes using talent from other University departments. Require Art for the Elementary School Teacher taught by someone in the art department, Math for the Elementary School Teacher taught by someone in the math department, and so on. Fields should include history, science, geography, music, and P.E. (including folk dance)
2. Reading classes should be divided into primary, upper grade, and remedial sections. They should encorporate the latest research.
3. Students should be required to join professional organizations, especially IRA and NCTM, and to attend regional conferences. Student memeberships at lower rates should be created, if not already available.
4. Graduate schools of education should work with professional organizations to develop specific national standards modeled on those created by the NCTM, with similar websites.
5. Classes in technology in the classroom should be provided.
6. Ourstanding classroom teachers should be rotated into the University program. It would help both the teachers and the education students.
7. Universities should host annual or semiannual education conferences for area teachers. Breakout sessions should include discusssions of problems and brainstorming for solutions. The sessions should be led by professional faciliators/mediators rather than speakers.

How effective are teacher-education programs today? I believe that teacher-education programs are effective to a point. It takes a special person with dedication, high motivation and intelligence to become an effective teacher. Blaming teacher prep programs for low quality graduates is absurd. NCATE has certain protocals that universities must follow. Having a certain g.p.a. does not dictate what kind of teacher someone will become. I know of plenty of doctors that had a B average and were fine physicians, unlike those who graduated at the top of their class who had no professional people skills.
What changes need be made? I believe that teacher education programs should have more observation and field experience hours. This way you could "weed" out the undesirables. Many students do not know what teaching entails. Teachers really need a secretary now with all the paperwork they are required to do. No one tells these graduates that some districts will require them to be on 2 to 3 commitees and only give them a certain amount of money to set up their classroom.
How best can new educators be prepared for the classroom? You can tell someone all day long your experiences till you are blue in the face, but reality is that you will have to experience them on your own. Teacher interns should know the theories and methods used currently, but they should also know how to apply them to real life. It should not matter how many years a professor teaches in the classroom; if the professor can teach the content and how to apply it, then their job is done.
Professors cannot hold the hands of each new teacher. They can only give them the "basics" and foundations that they will need to be an effective teacher. People need to understand that you learn something new everyday. Having a 4.0 or passing your Praxis exams does not make you a great teacher. Being an effective teacher comes from learning how to be a reflective decision-maker. Taking what you have learned in your teacher prep program and applying it to fit your situation.

Jeff said on the question of is teacher education failing there is "no magic bullet". School Board member thinks he has the answer in the market replacing public education. When Brett, NBCT, suggests the magic bullet is replacing schools of education with interdisciplinary studies inclusive of theories of education embedded and finishing with apprenticeship entry to permanent teaching status, Ken, the school board member, jumps to the conclusion that Jeff is of like mind in replacing public education with the market place.

I look at the question of whether teacher education is failing as the wrong framing of the question. The question I would ask is there better ways to provide training of teachers for the public schools? The way this question was framed by Education Week invited this attack on public education by a school board member of a Catholic school system. The right wing attempt to destroy public education and replace it with a free market system continues unrelenting.

The right wing cleverly started with the Regean attack on education as big government. Under Bush it shifted to using NCLB to make teachers responsible for a failed system. But, what is defined as failure is scores reflective of class differences and associated with students' zip codes.

Schools of teacher education can not be held accountable for failing to produce teachers that eliminate the class differences. They must turn out teachers that teach in all of America's zip codes. Even if one size fit all the all teacher education school tried to teach to eliminate class differences that would be asking them to do the impossible. Right now it is the classroom teachers in lower class zip codes under NCLB that are being asked to do the impossible.

Teachers aren't ready to enter classrooms? What else is new?

When I began teaching in 1972, the same complaint existed. Is it the fault of the colleges, the teachers, the schools, the students, the parents, the system? Probably all of the above - and none of the above. Parents today don't teach their children basic skills like self-discipline, courtesy and respect. Students don't see any relavence in the curriculum. ("Why do I have to learn about the Greeks?") Schools don't have any power to enforce rules without being sued. Colleges expect professors to teach without their having taken classes in teaching. And now the federal government is sticking its two cents into the mix.

My greatest worry isn't about the preparedness of the novice teachers; it is about whether we will have any teachers! As the shortage of teachers becomes critical, we need to ask ourselves how we can support those brave souls who enter into a vocation that is underappreciated, underpaid, and undersupported. Mentor them, pet them, and praise them. Isn't that what we do to our own students? Let's stop blaming and start problem solving.

I am on the 4-8 generalist certification plan; and I have spent countless number of classes where all they taught is EC-4 material. And when I ask what I am supposed to take away from this or how I can use this; they tell me to simply adapt the material to a higher level. It has been a really disappointing and frustrating situation. I really want to be a great middle school teacher but they are not giving me any knowledge of how to do that. Not to mention that the counselors have lied to me numerous times about what classes I need because they dont understand my certification standards.

All of the comments are quite interesting in one way or another, and are reflecting upon issues that many teachers have. I would have to say that "teachers in today's modern society must be more than teachers", and that is probably an understatement. For example a modern teacher needs a lawyers education to truly understand the IDEA Act and provide appropriate services to special education sudents. Today's modern teacher needs to also have a social workers education to deal with all of the dysfunctional students and parents they will have to deal with. Today's modern teacher needs to be educated in numerous foreign languages in order to teach a diversity of both legal and illegal immigrant students. Today's modern teacher needs to have law enforcement training due to all the problems that students have at school with drugs and violence.
One must remember that many teachers leave the profession after only a few years due to the unbelievable issues and actions that actually take place in a public schools. So, are we preparing teacher properly, the answer is probably YES. Many teachers are trained well to teach. The question that I have "Is it the responsibility of teachers to take care of every legal and social problem that arises in a school setting"? Because if the answer is YES, Then teachers will need approximately 17 years of training in order to deal with all the problems created by society. So, I guess that a bachelors degree and thirteen years of graduate school! Now, who wants to go to school for that long? Doctors and lawyers do not have to go to school for that long. Why teachers?

The University that I attend is awesome and they really do a fantastic job preparing teachers! Before we can even apply for teacher prep, we have to take a proficiency exam on basic skills and we have to pass with a certain score! Not only do we attend class, but we are required to observe anywhere from 10-30 hours per methodology class in a classroom. Plus out of those 10-30 hours, we are to prepare and teach 2-3 lessons to real students; all of this happens before we student teach! The summer before we student teach, each students participates in a three week intensive where we work with our supervising teacher to prepare the classroom. During this time, our professors prepare us for the semester ahead by teaching more in depth classroom management and other misc. things that we will encounter before we go into the classroom. All in all, I think I will be adequately prepared for teaching.

Jim in Oakland: please edit and punctuate your entry so I can understand what you're trying to say.

In hazarding a guess: The Right Wing isn't bent on corralling education as big government, just on suggesting that society spend its money more productively. And sometimes that means not spending it on things best left to market solutions.
Many in the Right Wing define that as Choice and the abundance of poor and minority families in urban cities throughout the U.S. who are exceedingly happy with the opportunity to access a better school through Choice, indicates to me that it is not a matter of zip codes or class. Just freedom.

1. Give Teachers authority to punishment in every student in every type educations (Middle, High,) and also collage levels.

2. Give good benefits all teachers and arrange the new concepts seminars for teachers and students. For good relation in both side.

3. And in the class room teachers and students mange the roles of respects that is very important for good classroom environments.

4. Give every teacher good facilities related new technology e.g. Laptops, internet and libraries membership. And give free of cast all news papers for new news of knowledge.

5. And start one news paper over all in the world “Teacher & Student” News paper for both side problems and solving methods.

M.Fiaz Asim
Computer Incahrge
The Elegance School
Arbab Barkat Ali Road Deba
Quetta Balochistan Pakistan
Ph: 092-081-2837955

The focus of this discussion is teacher preparation, not condemnation of the left, right or center. Politicization of education leads to polarization on a topic the vast majority of Americans agree needs to be a top priority - I don't dismiss the economic and political aspects of the state of education in our country, but let's look at how to build a better teacher, OK?

Before I taught, I was a Marine Officer, then ran a business for several years. In both those careers, I was thoroughly prepared for my job leading people through intensive academic and hands-on training. When I stood in front of my first command, I wasn't a "new" or "raw" lieutenant - I was a commander with the confidence to use the tools and training I had been given to lead my men. When I walked into my office as the new manager, there was no one in that business who was better prepared to succeed than I was.

How many first year teachers can say they felt that way?

I had spent over 3000 hours running training programs, counseling and leading my people, and administering the operations of multimillion dollar corporations and military units - and the State of Indiana felt compelled to have me take 36 hours of coursework to become certified as a teacher, even though I passed the PRAXIS and specialty area tests in the 98-99 percentiles BEFORE I even set foot in an education classroom. My coursework? Creative Writing, Lesson Plans and pedagogy, Reading and analyzing a text, Public Speaking, etc, etc, etc . .. I succeeded as a teacher IN SPITE of the education classes I took.

What I've seen in the comments above echoes the same refrain - the classes aren't relevant, enriched, or efficient in their designs. Confidence in your ability begins with confidence in your talents. A good teacher must be confident of his/her subject area knowledge and aware of the challenges facing her/him when the door closes and they're face to face with 20-40 children who need them to lead them.

That doesn't come from designing bulletin boards, playing games, or conducting classroom observations - it comes from learning what you need to know and applying it in real world situations.

I would like to know what suggestions are out there - I'd love to get involved in restructuring the system. This is a battle that need to be fought - but without the name-calling and finger pointing of partisan politics. Let's stay on task and discus new ideas for training and decide what we can salvage from the current system!

Universities treat their colleges of education as cash cows. If they continue to fail to clean up their act, such colleges of education need to be shut down.
We should also get rid of the pseudo-psychologists among the education professors who have coined the most misleading and stupid phrase: "We don't teach subjects -- we teach the whole child!"
Professionals of all types (not just professors of education who don't have a clue) need to list the required knowledge for our youngsters (and adults) to compete successfully in this wide-open world for quality (1) jobs and careers, (2) higher education or advanced training, and (3) participation in society, community and family.
I have drafted such a list of minimum curricula and teaching, along with the approaches for their implementation.
But the current colleges of education are not staffed to do the job by themselves. Many other professionals and business types will have to be involved.
John Shacter; semiretired engineer and manager, & still very active volunteer teacher of math and other subjects to various public-schoolers, as well as home-schoolers and adults. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]

I agree in part with John Shacter and many of the others who have posted. Teaching programs *are* a cash cow. I think this is a huge driver behind the poor programs out there. Another driver is the low supply/huge need for teachers. In my program, I've encountered a bunch of folks who are going to be great teachers; I've also encountered a bunch who never should have been accepted to the program. It would be nice to see teaching programs attract (and accept) only the highest-caliber folks. I've read a fair amount of good research (i.e. actual refereed journal articles, not anecdotal pieces), and clearly content knowledge in an area is a tiny piece of the picture. There is a lot of knowledge that I didn't have prior to my program that will be invaluable in the classroom (e.g. dealing with parents, setting up a classroom physically, and coming up with effective and interesting lessons). That said, there are a bunch of people in my program who are getting through by doing shoddy work and putting in minimal time. I think it's time that graduate programs in teaching become as tough as *other* graduate programs. Until that happens, I don't see a change in the system. And I don't see that change happening until the competition for jobs is tougher. In my program (at a university where teachers have been educated for over 100 years), it's a teacher mill, and amongst my friends who have gone through teaching programs in the past 5 years (6 different schools), mine is by far the most rigorous (not saying much).

I will say this--there are some folks in my program who take it very seriously, and my program has because a "you get out of it what you put into it" situation. That's great for those of us busting our butts, but it's not so great for the students (and parents of students) who the slackers will eventually teach.

I'm officially stepping off of my soapbox now :)

Joe Z.

There is a movement under the NCLB Act to discredit schools and then privatize them. Discredit teachers and then replace them with other teachers of the business model. I believe that we must be aware of this, because it is so obvious that that is what is happening.

Under this new system education will include core knowledge, which is specific facts about specific information. Thinking will not be a part of the curriculum.

Example: Second Grade Test question was "Why do the people in Brazel speak Portuguese?" My grandson got it wrong, because he said "So they can communicate." Is that entirely wrong? I don't think so, but the teacher did mark it wrong because she is not thinking but following her answer sheet.

I don't blame the teacher for this just that she is working under a core curriculum that doen't allow thinking. Cummunicate is a pretty good answer for a second grader.

There is so much fear generated now not even the best teacher can't use his/her mind to do what she considers correct. Inspiration is one of the most important qualities of a good teacher and that is ignored in the process. We are loosing our free public schools and the way that is happening is by putting impossible goals of proficiency that can never be reached and then blaming everybody connected with the educational process.

I received an excellent academic education from Sam Houston State University, and as a Special Educator, I feel as though I am academically well prepared to teach. However, I believe the problem does not come from the academic levels of the University but from the fact that the classroom text for teaching and behavior management given to the prospective teacher is close to, if not, total fantasy. These text tell the prospective teacher to use all these different methods and behavior management strategies giving the appearance that if you just use them properly -- they will work ! We need to realize that perhaps they do work in "Leave it to Beaver" land. However, the Beav is grown and we are living in a different time now. Many of the behavioral strategies do not work. If you make a functional behavior plan for a student, some of the students find the consequences laughable, and refuse to do the consequence they are given. I have to agree with some of the posters above. We are not always dealing with students who come from good homes with educated parents. Many of our parents are hardworking and have little time to help. Many are single parents. So I would ask the colleges, "Let's teach our prospective teachers the truth about what it is really going to be like instead of make-believe school because when you begin teaching, you find that what they teach you in college, often has nothing to do with the real world of education.

Please excuse some of my errors in the above post. I realize I failed to put some commas where theere should be one, and I placed one where it should not be. I suppose online is not the best place to try to do a final draft.

Sorry about the spelling. Theere is suppose to be there. Guess what, I don't type very well either. LOL! Have a wonderful Friday. I guess it just goes to show -- even teachers make mistakes.

Of course teacher education is inadequate. How could anyone be trained to be an instructor of basic reading, writing and arithmetic as well as any other area that is deemed revelant without adequate supplies, too many students and lack of support from administrators and the public. Public school teachers may be the one to see the child the most hours of the day, but they are not trained nor are they given enough support or time to also be full time counselors, resource person for available mental and physical health services. I believe we need to take a serious look at expectations, and resources of schools and develop programs based what is available or attainable.

Fourteen years ago, I graduated from a university that was considered to have the best teacher education program in my state. In comparison to counterparts and friends going through teacher preparation programs at other universities, I would say I was far better prepared than they to step into the classroom. My university required an extensive amount of time doing observations, direct one-to-one and small group instruction in classes with "real" students, completing a semester of practicum where the future teachers spent two days a week working directly in a classroom, and finally completing student teaching. As a prospective special education teacher, I spent hours upon hours sitting in classes learning the best ways to teach math, reading, social studies, science, and learning about IEPS, assessment, etc. The problem was, while I was getting all the instruction on how to teach, I wasn't taught what to teach, except for a quick trip to the school's library where I was shown a copy of the state's education standards and told "This is what you are to teach."

Years later, while working on my Master's degree in another state, I am still taking the same classes I was taught years ago. As other people stated in their postings, I have spent countless hours taking classes on how to write a lesson plan or making really cute "hands-on" materials to use in my classroom; however, very little actual curriculum is taught and references to the state's standards are rare.

My first year in teaching, I taught in an inner city middle school in which all of my students lived in the projects and had to worry daily about whether they would be able to eat that night or whether they would be beaten up on the way home from school or one of the many other issues that face students in an inner city school. While I had earned the "Prospective Teacher Award" for being an outstanding candidate as a student teacher, while my grades had been excellent, and while I had plenty of experience in supervised teaching situations, nothing had prepared me for what I faced daily in my classroom. As a new teacher, I had no support from administration, from parents, or from a mentor teacher.

After that year, I felt like a miserable failure and believed I was highly inadequate as a teacher. It took me nearly 10 years to work up the courage to return to the classroom. I am currently in my 7th year of teaching and have earned awards and many kudos for my success as a teacher. Much of that success has simply been due to maturity and having practical experience in the classroom.

There were a couple of things that truly made the difference for me, none of which were directly related to my teacher preparation programs. First of all, having a supportive administrator was crucial. Second, my supportive administrator placed all new teachers having less than three years of experience with a mentor teacher well suited to their personality and subject matter. Third, I was sent to numerous workshops and conferences that were directly related to my classroom needs and received extensive training to be successful. While all of this was helpful, among other assistance and support too lengthly to list here, what really mattered in the end was me. I had to make the choice to do whatever it takes to be a success, even if it meant spending my "free time" researching the standards, so I would know my content well; researching the school's adopted curriculum, again so I would know my content; researching the best teaching practices, so I would know how to apply the curriculum knowledge to the classroom; researching the best methods of classroom management and learning all I could learn about behavior interventions; contacting each and every family regularly in order to know students and to develop positive relationships with my students; assessing my students to know their needs and know them well; connecting with the other teachers in my school, so I could learn as much about effective teaching as possible; being open to constructive criticism and working on my weaknesses; and finally, believing in myself and being confident in my own abilities.

While I don't for a moment claim to know everything, this is what turned me from being one of the worst teachers in my school to now being the one everyone turns to when they need help.

I came into teaching after a career in the business environment. I, like others, went through a teacher preparation course, to prepare me for my life as a teacher. All I can say is that the courses I took as part of the program were MUCH LESS rigourous than the classes I originally took at a four-year state university to earn my undergraduate degree. I agree with one of the writers who stated that the programs are heavy on theory and light on practicum. What you REALLY need to be successful as a teacher isn't taught in those classes, it's taught as you stand in front of 30+ students, with no budget for classroom supplies, and are asked ensure that all students succeed. At that point, you either sink or swim. I think the success of the teacher depends alot on strong collegues who support the new teacher in the environment in which the new teacher is placed. I also agree with another writer who states that they don't do a good enough job sifting through the potential candidates. As a new teacher of 7 years who is in my 40's, I see many teachers who have come out of school who quickly become very stale in the classroom and lack the enthusiasm for teaching which I have and am lucky enough to share with some of my collegues. How sad for education! I think the more programs that encourage people to come into education at all points in there lives, only benefits the students. For instance, in many states Bill Gates would not be welcome in the classroom. Just think of the enormous potential/perspective a MIT dropout could share with a group of "At Risk" high school students. Just some food for thought.

Again - let's stick to teacher preparation here. The public-private school debate has been around since before Horace Mann and will always be with us - having worked in an elite boarding school and an innner city public school, I understand the challenges inherent in both paradigms, but it doesn't address the training of preservice teachers.

Ms. D's point about specialization is well taken - how do we account for differential learning in the preparatory environment in a meaningful way? I adored the chance to work with special ed teachers in inclusion settings because I always learned new ways to approach old issues. There's no doabt that preparation and planning issues have an important place in teacher prep - but are we just drawing classroom plans that are disconected from the realities of the school environment - the "Leave it Beaver" issue Ms. D brought up?

Shakespeare knew if he didn't keep his audience engaged through the curtain of the third act, they could leave and get a full refund from the box office. He used his undestanding of his auduience and mastery of his craft to ensure they stayed. If you offer a product that doesn't engage the learner and they check out before your third act, the loss is greater than box office receipts. You can engage and reach just about any kid, but you need to be confident of your mastery of your subject to adapt and revise your approach on the fly.

Core knowledge isn't names, dates, definitions and formulas - its the ability to shape that jumble of facts and theories into relevant and engaging programs of learning that reach the students. If I know all the procedures and plans for learning centers, a padeia seminar or jigsaw groups, it doesn't do a bit of good if I don't know the material I'm putting into the format well enough to adapt it to the students I've got.

I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record, but if you start with core mastery of subject areas and then integrate strategies and management programs, you'll get better results. If you make a math teacher out of a math scholar - you'll get a better product.

Thoughts?

All of my professors I have had during my college journey have experience teaching in public schools. Most either have or have had children in the public schools. All of the professors have encouraged those of us that have been in public schools to share our ideas. Some of the classes have been intense. I had to take several cultural diversity classes. Since I am going into Special Education, I have taken several classes that future Regular Education teachers are not required to take. I think they should. We as teachers should take it upon ourselves and be "information hogs" and learn all we can through institutions or programs that are accredidated, like mine (The Special Education Department went through a rigorous assessment with NCAT.I will graduate in May of 2007, and feel confident I will know what I am supposed to do because of my excellent education. Classroom funding has been an issue for years; we need to find supplies where we can as inexpensive as we can. Those of us going into or already are in this profession sure aren't in it for the money. Yes, it's frustrating, but the lives we touch is much more of a reward for me.

Brett:

I was guilty of finger pointing at these words of the school board member, Ken:

"The market is not allowed to function in our society due to the existence of public school and the monopoly it represents."

Many will agree with you that they do not want to see finger pointing and name calling on this post as most are teachers who have an institutional adversion to such behavior.

Brett, you called for discussion of the question of whether teacher education is failing to be limited to a discussion of "...teacher preparation, not condemnation of the left, right or center."

Seems like both of you, and Ken, feel that teacher preparation is failing. Your solution, Brett, is to engage in a conversation on how to build a better teacher while Ken wants to end public education.

In my previous post, I pointed out that the Ed Week’s editor by framing the question as "is teacher education failing?” invited a political response.

Perhaps I went too far in mentioning that there is a right wing agenda to end public education. But, Ken's remarks seem to me to put him on a parallel track, if not on the same track, as the right wing agenda to end public education.

Right wing agenda aside, I oppose replacement of public education with market-driven forces.

You said Brett: "I don't dismiss the economic and political aspects of the state of education in our country, but let's look at how to build a better teacher, OK?"

OK!

But, I believe the discussion should be about reforming teacher training for public schools to meet the concerns that many have written; and not about replacing the public school system.

Finally, in reading the study of teacher education, I found worthy of consideration the suggestion made about expanding the use of community colleges as an additional location for the training of future teachers. Such training would last beyond the usual two-year programs of such colleges.

Deanna Enos writes above that she is worried that we're going to lose our "free public education." She needs to understand that the $6,500 to over $14,000 per student per year that is spent in various locations to educate kids in public schools comes from taxes. And I can't think of anyone after it's explained to them who believes that this makes public education free. Economics is a dismal science but certainly one that touches teachers at all grade levels. I guess I would add an Econ course instead of a methods course.

I also would like to explain to Joe that my and many other's desire for choice is not a call for the end of public schools. It's a call for competition that would, according to present results and estimates by many, lead to the kinds of solutions that would provide better teacher formation, better providers of teacher training, and kids who would emerge from school knowing worthwhile facts and being able to think. None of that is happening now. Need convincing - read all of the responses above.

If competition is good enough for the grocery store, the department store, your cellphone provider, home builders and the independent contractor who bids for the paving job for the county roads - why not education? Be brave people! The folks who carved out our Constitution were mostly schooled at home. The kids in public schools today can't even explain what the document means.

I am a second semester credential student (1-year full time, 36 unit post grad program) 2.5 months from graduation.

From my personal experience, the article is, for the most part, right on.

First, my primary disagreement: I am assuming that the recommendation to "make five-year teacher education programs the norm," refers to integrated teacher credentialing as part of a bachelor's / credential program. There are positives to integrated programs, but this might leave us resting our hopes for better educators on the shoulders of 20-year-old freshman? Will they all stay the course for five years? Unlikely. In addition, a 32-year-old student like me (BA History) would not fit into this plan.

I also believe that you would find many graduates forced to get a full second degree if they found out that the classroom just wasn't for them. BAs in Education don't lend themselves well to job opportunities in other fields. Some may disagree, but I can do much more with my B.A. in History than I could with a B.A. in Liberal Studies (or whatever the equivalent would be) were I to exit the teaching profession.

As for the overall findings that the "majority of aspiring teachers are educated in low-quality programs that do not sufficiently prepare them for the classroom." My California State University's credential program fits the bill.

-90% theory / 10% practicum

-under qualified (sometimes incompetent) professors. I had a first semester class in which I never received a single assignment returned with feedback or a grade and had no idea what my overall class grade was until after course evaluations were completed. To make matters far worse, the professor gave an unethical pre evaluation speech on that last day of class. (Teacher evaluations are supposed to be anonymous and the required procedure is for the teacher to leave the room for the duration of the eval and not return until the evals have been dropped in a lock box on campus. They may not attempt to influence the opinions of the student evaluations).

-quantity over quality in terms of course work and there is little quality in the majority of what is given.

-low requirements for admission (although the school prides themselves on the opposite).

-There are students in my "advanced" semester that don't know how to write a lesson plan (as bad as placing lesson materials and set-up under the category of student assessment), leave early to go surfing, put forth 5-10% contribution in a 4 person group project...I could go on, but I think this paints a fairly clear picture. These people WILL graduate with A's and B's.

I am currently taking a break from writing a 26-lesson unit plan to post here. Each lesson is the equivalent in length and depth of what I would write up for a formal evaluation. Sounds like a high expectation, worthwhile assignment doesn't it? It isn't. I am essentially writing a mini-module on my own - no collaboration whatsoever - for an imaginary elementary classroom using a TE that will be outdated by the time I get a job next year. I will never use this currently 34-page document and I demonstrated my ability to lesson plan using this format about 15 lessons ago.

-Before I add a couple more items, let me say that I probably have more pre-program exposure to education than 95% of the teachers in my cohort and my wife has been teaching for 5.5 years. Unlike many of my classmates, my desire and commitment to the profession is extremely concrete.

-That being said, we have numerous classmates questioning their desire to teach. And it isn’t because their in class practicum has shown them that teaching just isn't for them. Rather, the quality of teaching, the inability of professors to model the school's own mission statement in their own classrooms, and a workload that allows me to see my two children for about 30 minutes a day (including weekends) is burning them out before they begin strictly due to overwork and uninspiring classroom, experience.

Our Methods professor was hired two days before school began. She has no support system from the College of Ed and is pretty much on her own.

Our Literacy professor does not know what the RICA [Reading Instruction Competence Assessment] Exam is. It did not exist when she started teaching, but we must pass it to get our credential. She is straight out of the classroom, full of knowledge, a wonderful teacher, but again has no support system that any of us can see.

I read a lot of off topic posts here and complaints against the wording of the articles title. I hope that my first hand experience lends at least some legitimacy to the article’s core argument. Teacher education programs are not the only thing contributing to teacher inadequacies, but that is what this article and discussion are addressing.

I considered deleting this message due to length or cutting it down before I clicked the post button, but I’ll go ahead and put it out there in hopes that people will see it as constructive criticism and a look at the realities of one particular program as it is developing rather than an attack on teacher education as a whole.

I am glad to see that a few other future teachers here are having more beneficial experiences than are my classmates and I.

If we can utilize the communityollege system to create opportunities for better quality teacher training - that would be a terrific program. Placing the teacher training closer to the actual environment and sperading out the load of apprenticeships statewide through community colleges sounds like a viable option.

Jim, I don't think we can consider the dismantling of the current public school system a viable option, do you? There will always be a need to educate all the children, and private schools, by definition, are not required to do so. The ability to "fire" an underperforming student has a truly motivating effect on most who attend private schools, I found. So - knowing the system is in place, with all its quirks and flaws - what do we do to bring training in line with reality?

the last post from the Souther California Student Teacher seems to highliht some inadequacies and flaws in our approach. The five year program mentioned is another ideqa, but is making teacher prep longer without addressing academic rigor and content jusst "putting lipstick on the pig"?

The biggest problem lies with the generalist elementarry teacher who must be prepared to lay the foundations for high school specialists (like me) In order to teach math, science, reading, geography, history, etc. this teacher has to have a fundamental grounding in all subjects. Just exposing the preservice teacher to the materials to be taught is akin to giving a college degree for a sixth grade education - what should be the baseline for mastery in each subject area? Should we continue to expect elementary teachers to be generalists, or should we shift to a program of specialization here as well?

As far as secondary teachers, the explosion of AP, IB and honors programs across the country points to even further needs for spoecializations within disciplines. Can we really expect a teacher to master the skills to teach Psychology, Human Geography and US History at the same time any more than we would expect an optometrist to diagnose pnuemonia?

I do not know if it is just my school, but I feel we have highly qualified teachers leading the teachers of the future. Principals, five year plus teachers, and doctors make up the list of professionals teaching myself and fellow colleagues. We take a year of classes in math, literacy, science, history, classroom management, building a classroom philosophy, student teaching/internships, along with taking three state issued tests. We also have to maintain a full load every quarter and get at least a 3.0 gpa while enrolled in the credential program. If people want to blame poor outcomes on the new teachers, maybe they should look at the programs they attended. The teachers who are failing are probably the same ones who were not interested in attending any post-college education courses or training. Also, in California many teachers have become so numb to "teaching to the tests" that they probably have given up on teaching the content to the students. I am not agreeing with the fact that alot of the teachers out there do this; so many people are uninterested in becomming a teacher because of the tests. Undergraduates are being told that teaching is no longer fun. Maybe we should not place such "high-stakes" on these tests, new teachers may become interested again.

Just to comment on the woman with the son that has dyslexia. I feel sorry for your school that they would place more importance on buying the 'V' for the varsity football team and not on the education of their students. In highschool settings that seems to be a big problem, sports before education. (Just one more problem with some school systems)

I agree with Leah that you need people with real experience teaching in the Teacher Education programs. These Phd's with all of their theories that change every few years do us no good. Give me real examples of how to handle the student mix I will typically get in a public school classroom. My other complaint after just finishing my degree (following a 15 year career in accounting/business) is bring more relevancy to the courses. I received only a high level discussion of IEP's and what they are and what to look for. There should be a methods course for each certification area on how to prepare alternative lesson plans for students with IEP
s while also satisfying the majority of students who don't have IEP's. I think you will find that what you prepare for the alternative plans can actually be used for the others as weell.

Universities need to become more practical in their methods and less theoretical. That starts with hiring more practical professors, even if they don't have the Phd.

While many are pointing fingers at the teacher prep programs; why aren't many pointing the fingers at the individuals that apply and accept placement in them? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but why not pose a solution? Why can't we be part of the solution instead of the problem? Why couldn't all teacher prep programs go under a major overhaul and comply with a nationally made set of standards? I beleive that the problem is that not everyone is on the same sheet of music here. Everyone should require the same core content and program of studies. Why reinvent the wheel here? Take the knowledge of highly qualified individuals, not the politicians who don't have an education degree, and come up with a proposed national set of standards that can be used across the board. I believe when that takes place that more highly qualified teachers will be produced. Please excuse my poor grammar and lack of professionalism. It's Friday everyone; lets put our minds together for a good cause!!! :)

Teacher education programs do need more practical training from professors who have been in the classroom.
I recently took some graduate education courses. My experience was not what I had hoped, and at the risk of being deemed bitter I am just going to say it; universities provide students with the ideal. Which isn't bad thing, because you must have a positive attitude to be a good teacher, or any kind of professional.
However, aside from field work, there is very little practical training on how to handle those not so ideal situations. And then you either sink or swim. Hopefully, new teachers will be paired with a good mentors, who will give them the practical training that was missing, but that doesn't always happen either.
In addition, I find specific real life scenario questions don't always receive real life scenario answers.

As a classroom teacher, several of these posts struck a chord with me. However, Cathy Pohan, Professor of Teacher Education, made a statement that rings so true yet so many are afraid to admit it. There is no system to weed out people who truly don't belong in the teaching field. I've seen so many teachers and wondered "Why? Why are you doing this?" They obviously don't like children, don't care for teaching, and appear angry and bothered to even be in the classroom. Naturally, this all falls down on the students. I'm not talking about someone having a bad day, I'm talking about people who have no respect nor consideration for their own students. I feel it comes down to some ridiculous control issue with the adult "proving" they somehow can attempt to control the child's behavior, etc.
My husband told me the other night "The news says that 68% of teachers bully their students. Do you believe that?" I told him "No. In reality, I think the statistics are much higher." And I do.
This is not a "bash teacher" post, its just my opinion from what I've seen. That said, there isn't an education program in the world to prepare teaching candidates who aren't suited to teach.
Finally, I wholeheartedly agree with posters who wanted more "in class" time--hands on experience. There is NO teacher like experience--none. Education programs need to put students in the field much earlier and KEEP them there. Give them different grade levels, different subjects, whatever, so they can truly make an informed decision about teaching. They can also learn so many "day to day" things expected out of teachers that tend to totally overwhelm new teachers (and some of us older ones) when they begin in the classroom.

For the most part, Levine’s findings are on point. Granted, his recommendations — like measuring teacher education by focusing on student achievement, turning teacher preparation into a clinically based, rigorous 5-year enterprise, and closing failing programs — are noteworthy. But they are nothing new. All one has to do is read the 20-year old reports of the Holmes Group or even James Conant’s 40-year old book, The Education of American Teachers. Unfortunately he misses a number of more poignant points, including the need to pay teachers more when we expect them to be more prepared and meet higher standards before they enter the classroom. Unfortunately, this is just the reason some teacher education critics do not want to invest in the enterprise. Check out my blog entry on Levine’s report and other matters related to the teaching profession – the one that makes all others possible: http://teachingquality.typepad.com/building_the_profession/

Much has been said here. Most of it valuable. The quality of the programs, the individuals who go into teaching, supervisors/administrators, and school boards, state legislatures is minimal. I believe that the country is comfortable with a minimal level of competency in the suburbs and varying degree of incompetency in urban and rural areas. That's why we have what we have. We're comfortable; we're satisfied.

Theo, Do you think we're really satisfied, or merely too comfortable to become "uncomfortable" and take action? I don't know where you teach, but in Texas, there seems to be a lot of "talk" and no action. A lot of people (not everyone, no generalization intended here) seem to be apathetic--they may complain but then do nothing to try and change our system.

The only way to change the educational system is for people to stand up and do what is needed to make those changes. VOTE! Get involved!

I do believe that most Teacher Education programs are not preparing teachers to face the harsh realities of the classroom, especially urban classrooms. I have watched so many teachers enthusiastically come into our schools with such an idealistic view of what what to be, and by the third week the glimmer is gone. They have been sucked dry by the ills of the community; the lack of parental support, students that are so far behind, lack of time for quality mentoring and support, poor classroom management, overall "paperwork" demands of the job and so much more. Many just throw in the towel and walk away from the profession. Colleges and Universities must begin to adequately equip future teachers of the "realities" that they will face! Courses need to be offered specifically on classroom management for starters, because if they don't become in control of their classrooms the first day or very soon after....Nothing else will matter! They also need to find out where teachers desire to teach and allow them to get experience that setting! Because speaking from my own experience I student taught in a suburban school quite unlike my present work location and there is NO comparison. A textbook, nor the words of anyone else could have prepared me for what I encountered when I started in Chicago Public Schools 13 years ago. And though I am now fully prepared, it is so challengeing that when I interview potential staff even my brutal honesty can not adequately paint a picture for them of what they will face!

Teacher education is failing in providing for pre-service teachers the necessary instruction in methodology to allow them to become effective in the classroom. For example, teaching students how to do a Fry is not nearly as important as teaching a student in pre-service how to group students by instructional level to teach reading. Institutions are failing to give a broader spectrum of instructional methods so that teachers have a full tool belt to draw from.

In my state it is not allowed to get an undergraduate degree in education. Your bachelor's degree must be in a subject matter and then you go on to teacher education programs.

I originally felt as I prepared to meet the highly qualified requirements that all this emphasis on content knowledge was unnecessary. The teachers that were already working were able to get their highly qualified credentials under the HOUUSE program by documenting seminars they've been to over the years, books they've read, units they've taught. Why did I have to have ten undergraduate courses in science and then pass the PRAXIS II to get a general science certification when my cooperating teacher during my internship program had been teaching for ten years with none of these things?

Now I know. My cooperating teacher knew precious little about the science she was entrusted to teach. How can she teach what she does not know?

My suggestions for teacher education overhaul:

1. Undergraduate degrees in a particular subject and not in education. This would give teachers the knowledge they need to transmit it to students and would weed out the people who skate through teacher prep courses. And my experiences mirror many of those that have posted here. Teacher prep. courses are ridiculously easy and everybody gets an A or a B in every class. People sitting for the GRE that are going into education score the LOWEST of any group of people that take the test. In teacher prep courses, if that is discussed at all (and it isn't if a student doesn't bring it up) it's laughed off as teachers think outside the box and aren't good test takers. Sure.

2. There should be a premium placed on recruiting more mature teaching candidates. To pluck young people fresh from their extended childhoods (high school, college, and then immediately into teaching positions) is a recipe for disaster. They have little to no life experience and cannot handle the multitude of social/political/administrative/etc. problems that are as much a part of teaching today as lesson planning is. And though this sounds old fasioned, young women who have not had their families yet are bound to after they have started as teachers. This leaves little time at home at night to work on school planning and grading papers, etc. It sounds funny now when we look back and remember that schools hired young women only when they were unmarried. Back then that meant there were no children of their own to conflict with the needs of the students entrusted to the teachers. While today's equal opportunities in employment will not allow schools to hire on this basis, we can as a people find ways to encourage more mature individuals into teaching careers. Teacher prep instituions would have to offer courses at night and on weekends to accommodate working adults. Grant and loan money would need to be made available to these older students.

3. While undergraduate degrees need to be earned in subjects like history, math, science, etc., there should minors in education with plenty of time spent in classrooms as elective courses to help a person prepare slow and steady for the reality of the public school room.

4. All professors in teacher prep programs should be screened and selected based on: (a) the number of years they spent in public schools, the "harder" the school the better and (b) on a commitment to not use their position to try to create teachers who share their own political and philosophical views. More time is wasted in education classes trying to brainwash future teachers than is spent on discussing HOW to take classes with 35 students in them and be able to do science labs. Simply harping in course after course that all children can learn and need to have equal opportunities in mainstreamed classrooms, and stifling any opposing opinions of the teachers in training, does little to help anyone make these dreams a reality. The place for political activism is in the village square, on a soap box, on community TV, handing out flyers, wherever political activism takes place. The teacher education program at a publicly funded university is not the place for such activity and takes precious time away from things that may actually help.

What is wrong with telling teacher interns that "all children can learn"? All students can learn something and contribute regardless of their academic ranking or intelligence. How is that political activism? Honestly, how can a university prepare novice teachers and give them the experiences they need to be successful caring practicioners? All the hooplah about students need more real life experiences is really a waste of time. If you really put these inexperienced teachers in the "inner city" classrooms or rural environments,most individuals would do an about face and walk away. Teaching is really "on the job training". No professor, textbook, seminar, professional development, hours of research, etc. is going to help a brand new teacher. Many of us go into the classroom in the fantasy phase, only to realize that something or someone will put their thumb on us. What is the solution here? What will make everyone happy? Why not put those who have an education degree in the law maker seats? Having a specialized degree in the content areas does not make you a better instructor. Having dedication, motivation and morals to press on does. Please excuse my grammar; it has been a long weekend. :)

Teaching was a second career for me. I had a non-teaching bachelors's degree. I had spent 11 years in the classroom as an aide and teaching assistant, while raising my children, before deciding to get my masters and certification in teaching. It was the experience in the classroom and observing good and not so good teachers that taught me far more than my masters level courses. I also follow up on research and pay out of my own pocket to attend conferences about teaching/remediating reading. I spend most of my district's 'staff development time' correcting test exams which certainly does not develop my teaching skills!!

Teaching was a second career for me. I had a non-teaching bachelors's degree. I had spent 11 years in the classroom as an aide and teaching assistant, while raising my children, before deciding to get my masters and certification in teaching. It was the experience in the classroom and observing good and not so good teachers that taught me far more than my masters level courses. I also follow up on research and pay out of my own pocket to attend conferences about teaching/remediating reading. I spend most of my district's 'staff development time' correcting NYS mandated test exams which certainly does not develop my teaching skills!!

Prior to retiring after teaching graduate school, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 1st grades (in two countries), I was serving as an instructional specialist in an AC program. I recall a middle-aged economist who came to see about applying. After his regaling me with all his accomplishments in his field and his desire for retirement income, I ventured a question---Do you have any experience with children? To which he responded--No, but how hard can it be?

I find AC candidates who looked down their noses at the college of education's offerings back when they were majoring in marketing, often come into the accelerated credentialing we do in lieu of teacher preparation, believing they already know everything they will ever need to know.

They simply can't hear it when a Ph.D. tries to tell them what to expect and how to prepare, because all the negative press education receives has prepared them to feel superior to those whose ranks they are choosing to join. Often the attitudes they exude in training are those of a middle class diner criticizing the chef without bothering to taste the meal. To say it is challenging to teach them what they need to know is certainly an understatement.

I have taught school recently, trained teachers for many years and understand that for each person who posted, the realities they described either were their personal experiences or their perceptions---a number were perceiving types of teacher education, training and credentialing that are no longer in operation in most areas.

I am grateful that we still have some undergraduates who choose a career in education early and spend many hours in schools in field experience settings; they may survive and remain in teaching for more than three years, even if they have a less than ideal mentor and principal the first year or two. Those who lack vocation for teaching may leave very soon unless they have a wonderful mentor or team of content or grade level peers who carry them through the first year or two. It is that hard, no matter how we try to prepare them. Furthermore, field experience, student teaching and internships are still not like being a first time teacher who is no longer being supported and protected by professors, cooperating teachers, formal mentors and a system that has a vested interested in seeing each candidate for certification succeed in gaining a credential.
I notice that when those supports are removed, if a new teacher who has not had a pretty lengthy preparation happens to encounter a supervisor or peer with whom they have conflicts, disillusionment overwhelms them rather easily.

To close, another vignette from my experience as an AC specialist concerns a retired military man who was also a pastor. He was very well liked by all and everyone mentored him willingly and regularly. After he had been teaching first grade for about six weeks, on one of my regular visits, I asked how he was doing. He sighed and said it was the hardest work he had ever done--including military combat. From that I concluded we should prepare our military personnel by sending them to school , peferably kindergarten or first grade...

To dismiss the concerns in the posts as Rita does is another symptom of what's wrong with teacher prep. Rita states that "number were perceiving types of teacher education, training and credentialing that are no longer in operation in most areas" - - are you talking about the First Year teacher, graduate students and preservice teachers who have all posted concerns about the lack of preparation they have recently received? Come on - deal with the facts - teacher ed programs are not quality programs, and we need to address the issue, not dismiss it.

"They simply can't hear it when a Ph.D. tries to tell them what to expect and how to prepare, because all the negative press education receives has prepared them to feel superior to those whose ranks they are choosing"??? Is it just possible the negative press they have read may be true, Rita? While I shudder when people talk of "national" standards for teacher prep due toi the inevitable politicking that will result in some convoluted statement of "principles", maybe it is time to take a hard look at ourselves and see what we need to do to right the ship. {BTW - my salary and income are definitely middle class - does that makje me incapable of appreciating gourmet dining? :-)}

1. We need to set high standards and hold to them. Engineering, medical and legal professions have no problem "weeding out" the non qualified pretenders, why should we? Barnett Berry is right, however - this will lead to a severe shortage of teachers if pay does not increase - who wants to go through such a rigorous program to be paid less than they're worth?

2. We need to establish "apprenticeship" or "internship" programs akin to the medical profession and its residency requirements. Just because the degree has been conferred, doctors don't turn the hospital over to the newbies - they go through strenuous apprenticeships to gain insight as to the nuances of the day to day operation of the profession - why don't we?

3. We need teachers who are masters of their content areas. Goodtreaching is not a formulka based on tricks and structures - its understanding and adapting to shifting realities in the classroom in a way that allows the master instructor to connect with her/his students. You can't do that if you don't understand the material at a deeper level.

tghe first step is to "think outside the box" and not instinctively protect the structure of the program. I still think departments of education serve no purpose at the college/university level., Break them up, put those instructors in content areas and make our educational system truly educational at its core.

I believe that teacher prep programs are like everything else, some are good, some are adequate and some are below standard. What makes a good teacher is also a subject of debate. A blanket statement like that coming from a politician makes my blood boil. I have had some great professors and some mediocer professors. I have learned something from them all. I think what really is at issue here is that education in America is at a crossroads. What we have is no longer working well and no one really seems to know where to go. The easiest thing to do is to blame it all on teachers. If we were all good, then students would learn, pass tests and everything would be good. If they are not then it must be the teacher's fault. If the teachers begin bad, then it must be the preparation programs. What other profession EXPECTS you to be 100% from day one? I don't really know of any. Everyone says that evaluations are in place to help you learn, but once or twice a year feedback is hardly enough input to increase job performance. I think that the "politicians" need to look a little further and realize that what worked 50-100 years ago is no longer working with our society. Kids are pretty savy and the school program has not kept up. Much of the day for many student's is just plain boring. Let's stop blaming the lowest paid group and start thinking about how to bring our education into the new century. Classrooms in poor districts are sadly underfunded. Technology is a norm in the real world and some of these schools don't even have enough textbooks for the class. It is shameful. Parents beat up on teacher's emotionally and expect them to overcome their lack of parenting skills. This is not a "teachers' and their preparation programs" stink therefore that is what is wrong with our education system. The problems abound in the system and won't be fixed because it is too easy to just blame the "teachers".

Brett misunderstood what I intended to convey. I think everyone who posted had something valid to convey. As Robyn notes, there are all kinds of experiences out there and a person who wants and expects to learn something can find something of value in any course. What I meant about "what is currently out there" is that an increasing proportion of teachers are being prepared NOT in universities, many of which now have extensive requirements for field experience in classrooms prior to student teaching and internship and those who offer an internship setting where students can receive some remuneration while co-teaching provide a more viable alternative for students who can't afford to quit their multiple part-time jobs in order to be available full-time for student teaching.

More and more choose to finish a degree in a liberal arts or a teaching field and go through an alternative certification program---those can vary from one extreme: a for-profit company that takes their money, tosses them some online activities and a few workshops, wishes them luck on the state-mandated exams, and does the paperwork after their colleagues in the schools mentor them to marginal success--- to the opposite extreme: master's level one or two year programs which lead to an advanced degree in education and provide thorough training, mentoring and supervision to them during an internship of one to two years. Needless to say, most people who would like to be teachers see the first extreme as a "good deal" financially at $3,000. and a year of internship. In some cases it works out well for them. It gets harder and harder to find good mentors who, for a nominal fee will share with their new colleagues what they paid tuition to learn some years ago in a full course of study.

I do NOT disagree that there are weak programs, professors who have not been in classrooms as teachers of record for a long time and others who have been teachers of record in classrooms but have had no preparation to teach adults and every other possible combination of less than ideal circumstances. (Schools of law, medicine and business abound with similar complaints, incidentally---and plenty of quacks graduate from both.) That's why I said everyone's posts were a valid reflection of their experiences or perceptions. I also agree that we have no good way of keeping smart people who just want a job but don't like children out of classrooms; they pass the state tests on the first try and turn in all the required paperwork, but it takes years to get them out of the profession---after they have bullied generations of children. Some of the very best teachers struggle through three years of retaking the state tests before they finally pass them because while they know the content, multiple choice tests are not their strong suit, although they have the people skills to be effective motivators of young people (and adults, as well in most cases) and go on to be successful, respected and well-liked by students, colleagues, and supervisors. If there is a "magic bullet" to eliminate poor candidates and select and effectively prepare the best, I haven't seen it in use in over thirty years. Nevertheless, some programs do it better than others and typically, they cost more, take longer, and potential candidates who have to pay for their own educations can never afford to pay back what they would have to borrow to go through such programs.

As for "not listening" I still recall a very capable, intelligent, hard-working intern in an AC program who appeared to be paying attention all summer during intensive training and two university courses, who came to follow-up training in October of her first year in the classroom and straggled in looking like a drowned rat (as most do) and said, "Dr. Chiullan, you never told me it was going to be so hard!" To which I replied, "Yes, my dear, I did tell you--all summer long, you just weren't listening yet then." She went on to be teacher of the year for her school in her third year of teaching and was always a delight to teach, observe and know. Others go through the same set of opportunities to learn and after three years, have passed all the tests, become certified, alienated everyone, failed to turn in lesson plans, traumatized three sets of children, failed to teach anyone anything and then leave teaching (after they are eventually forced out) to complain that it didn't live up to their expectations.
Yes, we do need to continue to make it better. Doing less training is not the solution. Doing more supervised co-teaching practice with follow-up from faculty with both practical experience and academic depth is a good place to start.

I think our eduation programs do prepare you for the basic requirements for teaching. What they dont prepare you for is the type of parents we are dealing with today, the government red tape, test upon test, and student problems. I think the district principals, mentor professors, and mentor class teachers can give correct feed back to the new teacher and either pass or fail them if they are inappropriate. NO college class can 100% prepare the real deal. I want to know how many tests the congress and representatives take to get their information or how many real schools they visit before they write stupid laws that are useless and damaging to education?

In my feeling, after nine years of teaching, is that the larger problem rests on the political side of education. Policies and expectations of classroom teachers begin with individuals with little or no experience in the classroom. What is asked of a classroom teacher on a daily basis is nearly impossible. The paperwork alone can be unrealistic - considering you have 25+ faces in front of you all day long. Yet, little compensation comes to those who manage to successfully balance it all. As professionals, we can be cheated out of years of experience when switching school systems, experience small yearly hikes in salary and receive no additional stipends for any extras we may manage. To me, the failure comes after the teacher education program. My passion and skill judge and motivate me.

I am currently finishing my Master's in an alternative certification program. Several of my classes have fallen into the "very bleak" category. There are many University Professors whom have lost touch with the real world and their teaching becomes busy work instead of really preparing us for the task at hand...teaching in the urban school system. I think the tenure system in the University has caused alot of undeserving and uninspiring profs to be able to remain on faculty for years and years. The University has too much power in this area. They set standards but do not uphold them within their faculty ranks. It is a big problem and I am in the midst of a useless and costly education in the school of education.

I am a education student and an instructional assistant. I am 39. Education is my second career. I was in the medical field for years and my children are adults. In my classroom, I am often in the position of being "teacher" because the teacher that I work with often asks me to teach because of the knowledge that I have aquired. I believe that this knowledge, for the most part, has came from life experience. Most of the teachers at my school are really young with no children or no experience working with children, but there heart is in it. I work at an "urban" school and that is the environment that I am from. Most of the teachers are not familiar with this and they admit that it is a challage dealing with classroom management (at least they admit it). I think that graduates are book smart, but the success of a teacher has alot to do with life experiences and dealing with all of the parent/child issues that were not as previlent in the past. There should be more field experience as a part of the teacher education program.

Why is the education system always failing? Teachers are unqualified. Colleges are not teaching teachers how to teach. Students nowadays are more violent, less attentive, less creative, unmotivated, unready for real life, etc. etc. In the past any single teenage woman who could read or write was responsible for educating all the students of an entire county. In my 20 year career the requirements for kindergarteners has gone from behavior adaptation to full on reading comprehension. Our expectations are constantly changing. Good teachers take whatever training they have and work to improve their students' lives. We become successful when our former students are wise enough and analytical enough to look back and criticize our methodology. Educators are far better prepared than they were in the past. Our expectations for what a good teacher should be has, as always, been a subjective judgment clouded by personal opinions and individual experiences. Most teachers are not prepared to begin teaching. Most accountants need on the job training to become accurate predictors of market trends. Doctors take at least 4 years to become minimally adept in their jobs. Few professional positions start their career at the same level of proficiency that they expect to end their career. Teachers must use those difficult first experiences to become better. No college could possibly prepare teachers for all the tasks they might encounter. Why should we expect teachers to be totally prepared for the dynamic career of teaching when every class is filled with new and ever changing little minds who will eventually be the accountants and doctors and also the judges?

I strongly believe that teaching education is failing. Speaking from a small island's perspective our students are struggling because our teachers are struggling, too. I believe that each state as well as each territory of the USA are researching for effective strategies for teachers to teach our children accurately. I believe that in order for a person to become a true teacher he/she should spend a year in field experience instead of just spending like a semester. A teacher needs to practice and practice. Teaching is not an 8 hour job. A well equiped teacher will not only teaches effectively but also teaches from the heart. There is a great need for a person who wants to teach to spend in a classroom environment before he/she is entitled to teach. Of course, there are myriads of factors behind but if we train them well, give enough time to practice, spend time for dialoging what needs to be done, change, upgrade, not to do, etc. I believe that we will have more effective teachers as well as many healthy children.

Are these new observations???

I remember hearing this almost every year since I went into education in 1967! One of the most memorable books I read, way back in 1970, said almost the same thing.

The last 6-10 years teachers say that nothing they learned in college has been a help. Scary, isn't it but it sure seems true. I've taken some coursework at other colleges and it was just for the credits because there was almost no education useful in the classroom setting.

At Ball State University where I graduated ___ years ago, my college profs were also teachers at Burris Lab School. I just met with some administrators from BSU few days ago.

BSU is one of the few teacher prep places that turns out great educators. Of course, they don't accept anyone that is not top notch academically. That seems to be the key. I see teachers struggle 6-8 times to pass the PRAXIS in their content area. One finally passed in the Elem level and switched from HS to Elem Math.

Too many people think teaching is for the lower ability person. I just counseled with a prospect that can not pass PRAXIS 1 which is basic content to get into education classes. Want her to teach your grandchildren? She is trying to get into the TAPP program in GA. A 4 year degree in anything and learn on the job with classes while you teach~~horrors. She wants to do Sp Ed!

A two-pronged response: Teachers are not the problem, the system is the problem. There is always a fresh supply of new, energetic, eager and willing teachers, but they find themselves in systems that are hobbled by systemic issue that seem to be worsening; unions that protect the tenured teacher who should retire, but hangs on, gives little, supports little, and earns 4 times what the new teacher does; confusing, inconsistent and time-swallowing beginning educator mandates that suck the life out of our new teachers; overworked and underprepared/inexperienced administrators bent on pushing their state and federal mandates as well as personal agendas onto the classroom teachers; a majority of parents who send their children to school to be raised by the teacher, instead of simply educated... are a few of the burdens placed on teachers. I'm nauseated by the culture of blame-the-teacher. Parents should do their jobs--this will free the teachers to do theirs.
On the other hand, I've been a special educator for 16 years, and I train regular educators in inclusive strategies. The reluctance and ignorance of many veteran general ed teachers to try to educate the special needs student is staggering. They don't want "those kids" in their class, and are ill-prepared to provide edcuation for every child according to their needs.

It's very difficult to keep politics out of this discussion when accountability is tying the hands and hearts of every teacher in this nation thus not allowing them to be creative in their methods of reaching the students in their classes. Thinking an army officer is the best role model for a teacher is a very unrealistic idea of inspiring or motivating learning. Force is perhaps necessary for some, but the majority of young people I worked with were enthusiastic until it was knocked out of them by someone putting too much pressure on them to succeed beyond their abilities for age appropriateness. Good teachers open doors for learning, they don't shove kids through keyholes.

Ken/school board, When I said I fear we are losing our free public education, I did not mean that I thought education was not costing any money. Free Public Education, means that every child has a right to attend a public school and be taught.

Just like now we can go to a public library.

Being educated is being taught more than specific information. Thinking skills are paramount, and learning how to process information is of great importance if we are to have people who function with intelligence.

Teachers are facilitators and must be flexible in their classrooms. Good teachers cannot be check list educators.

I believe the college programs here in Oklahoma or rather Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK was very efficient in preparing me for teaching. I went through the pre intern programs and one full internship. My entry college instructor, building superintendent and principal, and mentor teacher was right on top of any problems I had. I am shocked at the disrespect our national leaders are giving the education system. If the colleges arent doing their jobs then pinpoint them not the majority of good teachers.

It is not the education programs that are failing. It is the school systems that are failing the rookie teachers by not providing them with the support and mentoring they need. Part of the problem is that inexperienced teachers often get on with the most difficult systems--the ones that cannot keep veterans, poorly paid, inner city or poor rural, incompetently run---exactly where they do not need to be, full of students who need teachers who are rock steady and for whom teaching is more something they are than something they do. Ve

The problem can be solved in several ways.
1. First, there needs to be funding and requirements that rookies, those with less than three years experience NOT be put as the sole teacher over a class. Where they need to be is as a co-teacher in an inclusive class with an experienced special education teacher. That's right. The rookie is the regular education teacher. She can really learn how to teach with an experienced special educator as a mentor.

2. A second possible solution would be to reduce the work load of an experienced educator, give her a paraprofessional and a half time load (maybe in elementary school share her class with another mentor) and put her over two or three rookies. She would work with the several times a week at minimum and teach them how to do their job.

3. Rookies should never, under any circumstance, teach out-of-field. They also must not float. No rookies on carts. EVER

4. Whereever possible, the veterans should be attracted to the more difficult schools and rookies (less than 3 years) and alternate certification graduates with less than 5 years of experience sent to middle class suburban schools. (Pay the veterans 20% extra and provide some nice perks like extra professional leave, no duty, a paraprofessional, no dress code, a computer on their desk,a phone in the room, a comfortable chair with arms and wheels, extra supply money, and a teacher's cafeteria with teacher food and I guarantee experienced teachers would teach in the ghetto of the ghetto.)

5. One last thing, and the Teach For America and other alternate certified people are going to be offended by this. You cannot become a teacher with a few weeks of training in the summer!!!!! I don't care how good you are in math. YOu are not a teacher until you know how to teach and alternate certification graduates without at least 3 years of experience should NEVER, EVER, EVER BE ASSIGNED TO SPECIAL EDUCATION. NEVER. ESPECIALLY NOT IN SELF CONTAINED CLASSES!!!!! THEY CAN ACTUALLY HARM THE CHILDREN AND WILL DRIVE THE PARAPROFESSIONAL TO EARLY RETIREMENT. The only time an alternate certification might be successful in special ed is under Situation 1 or with real strong mentoring and a lot of age and maturity (like an EBD teacher I knew who had been a probation officer. Even she had some rough days and ended up in the hospital occasionally and that was with 10 years of experience!) Also,deep long term involvement with a handicapped family member or close friend would help a whole lot.

6. This thing called "generic certification" in special education is producing teachers that are just trying to be assured a job. YOu are not a special educator if you are not a specialist in some disability area. Go get a specialty! Learn the field. It is a noble one. Get rid of generic special ed programs.

7. Reduce "inclusive" classes. For a great many special needs kids the regular classroom is NOT their least restrictive environment. They need to be taught their core courses by someone who knows their disability area in a caring small group environment especially designed to meet their needs. This is true for most MID,DEAF,LD and ED/EBD students as well as all those with more severe disabilities. Most kids with disabilities need some time with their peers and their peers are kids who know what it is like to have a disability not the athletes and the cheerleaders! If they are comfortable in all regular classes, that is fine. But an awful lot of kids with disabilites want to be with others like them. A kid who cannot read does not want everybody to know it.

Regular teachers are not equipped and should not have to teach special needs kids with learning related problems. I am not talking about a child who has to be catheterized but is mentally normal one who is mildly visually or hearing impaired or an amputee. They should be in regular classes most of the time. Special educators should not have to function in a regular classroom on a constant basis. WE need our own space, class, and equipment.

The parents are going to realize before much longer that special kids are not learning well in regular classes and the pendulum will swing back the other way. IDEA will be reinterpreted again. This will probably happen when the schools realize they get less money for kids in inclusive classes, but it needs to happen sooner.

The problem is not the education programs. It is how the schools are run.

I think the Colleges are doing a fine job. They are under the same NCLB requirements and have to prove their programs are up to 'standards'.
I think all the testing and schizophrenia resulting across the levels from student to administration and community has clobbered not only the kids, but the teachers.

This is my 20th year of teaching and the stress is absolutely horrendous. I go in two hours early and leave two hours later. But, I have no children waiting for me at home so I can do that.

Putting three state tests on one teacher's back is incomprehensible. At the upper levels of education, the teachers are reponsible for one subject area state exam because they teach that subject area.

Elementary teachers teach all the subjects. In fifth grade we have the Social Studies for 3rd and 4th grade knowledge, the ELA exam and the Math exam. We spend the first marking period reviewing 3rd and 4th grade S.S. We lose that time to teach fifth grade S.S. curriculum.

Add to that, 3rd grade gives ELA and Math exams and 4th grade gives Science, ELA, and Math exams. They have to forfeit portions of their curriculum time also. Think about that and how it affects background knowledge for future grade levels.

Factor in required field tests given during the testing times, cultural arts presentations given by the PTA all year long, professional development pulling us from our classes during the school day, having to learn new guided reading programs requiring lots of study and preparation on top of the curriculum, grade level meetings with directors of all the subject areas, and at the end of the day you have a fractured teacher who is not only exhausted but feeling great dispair. That is not just me. I look around me at my fellow teachers and at the teachers I meet and I hear their anguish as they say the same things. Then, I hear the kids when they say they work long hours in school and why so much homework and why so many tests?

Good teachers strive for teachable moments and injecting passion, humor and fun into learning. It's extremely difficult to incorporate those anymore when you are one human being responsible for the standards, curriculum and three major exams PLUS the district expectations to learn new reading programs and math programs NOW. Plus, having to analyze the data from past test results to meet student needs and have regular meetings to show how you will do that.

If I was starting out now, I wouldn't go into teaching. I talked my kids into other professions. My children are lawyers and a doctor. They are treated with more respect and even though they work all year long, they specialize in one area and meet standards for that one area.

I don't think anyone would pack so much on a mule without breaking its' back.

It's not the colleges. The student teachers I get are high quality. The hours my colleagues and I put into professional development and more raises our quality. It's time for an honest look at what these tests are doing to classrooms of teachers and students. Beating us down with 'test sticks' will affect quality at every level.

There is a need for testing but public results being held over everyone's heads is cruel. That's Me and my colleagues on that page no matter that our names aren't there. AND, we feel that. There is no joy or atta girl feelings because the kids did well. It doesn't even relieve the stress. It builds it up more.

It's time to stop assigning blame, time to think about unrealistic expectations being placed on one adult human being, time to think about how students learn and allow teachers to build high quality curriculum and assessments to meet their needs.

If the goal was to have children around the country have the same high standards, high expectations, and high test results, well, I believe that may be realized at the cost of quality teachers, quality teaching and quality learning by the kids.

In Pennsylvania all certification granting schools operate by a new set of laws undergirding teacher all PA certification programs - and they are tough. There are several unresolved problems however.
One is that our state requires that this all happens in 4 years. Teachers everywhere are all in a program which is essentially a double major - the profession of teacher and the additional area of specialization.
Add to that the ill-conceived and unfunded mandate of no child left behind laws and the overall misguided paradigm of politician/test - based education instead of student centered classrooms.
Then there is a frightening paucity of leadership standards, rigor, and checks and balances on school administrators at all levels from k-24. How can a bad teacher be hired and maintained if not for poor administrative leadership.
Finally, our education systems are improperly stuctured in their funding. Poor neighborhoods will support poor education and poor results in teaching unless funding structures are changed to avoid this. Teachers have the biggest union in the country and do not make it work as it should to support the changes that are needed. A general lack of political responsibility in voting among all educators helps these problems persist.
We have all of the successful theories and matching practices to be the top education country in the world if we wanted to. IT IS ALL AVAILABLE AND WAITING!!!
Ultimately we need a paradigm shift in society so that lifelong excellent education - more than any other priority -drives our nation.

i think that our teachers traning instituties are not good. they did not provide good training.

I had to comment here.

As a matter of background, I am a twenty-seven year old senior secondary education major. My field of emphasis is English.

Eastern Kentucky University is revered as a college for teachers. It was an institution founded for teachers by teachers in the latter half of the 19th century. This school is a school for future educators.

Why then do I find myself suddenly terrified and overwhelmed by anxiety as I prepare to enter my student teaching semester? I feel wholly unprepared...

While I feel qualified to teach the literary side of English, well, I don't know that I'm prepared to teach any other aspect. I am a competent writer and literary analysis is my strongest skill. Am I prepared, even academically, to teach my discipline? Not after a witches brew of educational courses smashed together with a 40 hour literature core.

I like to think that I'm a highly intelligent person. I am insightful, analytical, a good critical thinker, highly logical, empathetic and I learn and synthesize information quickly. I still feel terribly underqualified. For example, I have struggled mightily with my grammar course this semester. I have an excellent understanding of the basics of grammar (i.e. nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, direct objects vs. indirect objects, etc.) I am still struggling a bit with the nuances of clauses, complex and compound sentences, etc.

Am I capable of learning these things? Absolutely.
Do I have the time or the inclination to start a new degree -- a BA -- in standard English? Absolutely not. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will enter my graduate program not in education, but rather in English.

Why? Because I have become intimately convinced of one thing!

Teaching starts with core knowledge. It's that simple, folks. We can talk about all the methodology, theory, practice, in-classroom experience, observation hours, co-teaching, mentoring and hoo-hah we want. In the end, well, none of that will replace CONTENT KNOWLEDGE.

I agree with many, many, many things that have been said here.

1. Educators should have to, upon completion of their student teaching, enter an internship program similar to medical students. It should be at least one year long, perhaps as many as three, and they should be assigned only to master teachers in the district with 5+ years experience.

2. Education should be wholly removed from collegiate curriculums. That is to say, it should only exist in the realm of graduate studies. All undergraduates should have to obtain a BA or BS in their disciplinary field before moving into an educational masters program.

3. Requirements for entrance should be based NOT on a cumulative GPA, but rather on the GPA of a core disciplinary field. I know many students at EKU who have gotten in because their general education GPA boosted their core. They DO have to maintain a 2.5 in the educational core (which is three courses) prior to admission into The College of Education. Still, I know numerous people who took the SAT 5+ times and could not score the requisite 20 for entrace. No offense to bad test takers, but let's be realistic. The SAT and ACT measure your basic verbal, scientific, reading comprehension, and mathematical aptitutdes.

Do we really want folks that can't demonstrate a basic level of fundamental knowledge ACROSS THE BOARD to be teaching our children?

4. Prior to admission all students should be required to pass the PRAXIS I examination.

5. Teachers in educational depts. at the university level should have to have three basic requirements: 5+ years in a classroom setting, a masters or PhD in a core discipline, and at least 30+ hours of some extended pscyhology core.

6. Students should be REQUIRED to achieve a Masters degree level certification before being allowed in the classroom.

I just feel compelled to address one last issue. As unprepared as I feel within my discipline, well, I am highly intelligent, motivated, and capable of being an excellent teacher.

I know this in my heart and my mind!

However, there must be a more restrictive process for admission to education programs. Future teachers must also have their core disciplines drilled into their brains before being allowed to step into a classroom.

EXAMPLE: I have a young lady currently in grammar course. She is very close to entering student teaching. She recently made the following comment to me:

"I don't know why it matters whether or not I can tell you what an adverb or an adjective do. I'm going to teach literature...not grammar!"

She can't identify what conjunctions are; she doesn't understand why relative clauses are adjectival; she can't tell you the difference between the possessive pronoun its and the contraction it's; she once asked me to explain the difference between an intransitive verb and a transitive verb.

I meet these types of people on an almost daily basis -- terrifying!

I am terrified. I am scared that I will not be as qualified as I need to be when I step foot in my first classroom. I feel overwhelmed, mired in theory (that I mostly don't recall and could care less about), and mostly, well, I feel cheated. I feel like my university experience could have been so much more that it wasn't.

Oh well, maybe there is hope for me. Having read all of these posts, I feel much better.

Maybe I really don't need to know the form constructions for every English tense with perfect accuracy...yet.

I trust that someday, I will.

Shane

This is an exciting and relevant discussion. I wish that media coverage of this issue were as intelligent and well-informed. I agree with much of what has been said.
1. The problems of education are much deeper than just teaching/teacher preparation, HOWEVER, we are discussing only teacher preparation here.
2. Internship of some kind is vital.
3. Mentoring in the first three years is essential, since each teaching situation (school/district) is unique.
4. National standards in all subjects are of paramount importance, and teachers' subject matter organizations (not the federal government) should establish them. (See the NCTM website for an outstanding example of what this could/should be like.)
5. Subject matter training by subject matter departments is more valuable than educational theory. It should not include bulletin boards or lesson plans. If you do not understand a subject, you cannot teach it, no matter how many classroom observations you do. All you need to know about setting up a lesson can be summarized in half an hour: a. Have all materials ready beforehand. b. Have a clear and limited goal. c. State the goal. d. Give examples and offer opportunities to practice. e. Restate the goal. f. Assess your success (or lack thereof--winks). That's it. For that you need a dozen repetitious classes? There are so many other things that people could learn that would be more useful!
6. Education professors/departments should be a thing of the past. Working teachers from the area--not another state or country-- should be rotated into a limited number of positions--one methods class. Guest speakers should talk about current/upcoming legal issues and testing policies.

I have over twenty years' experience in the classroom, and I have seen some VERY good first-year teachers in our district. They come in with fresh ideas and great strategies for reaching kids. They spend a lot of time preparing and are far more than one chapter ahead of their students. I have learned a lot from my young colleague in my department; her greatest asset is the willingness to ask questions of veteran teachers. The new teachers who flounder are the ones who think they know it all and don't need veteran's input.

Teachers who are going to be good will start out good, or at least mediocre. Teachers who start out bad will probably always be bad at what they do. I have seen a few of those, but they are far outnumbered by well-prepared professional educators. Gee...maybe that speaks of the skill of my administration in selecting new hires??

I have had a hard time going to sleep for almost 3 years now. WBR LeoP

Not all children who misbehave need to be medicated. The impression that my wife and I are getting is that there is a selfish desire to find a quick fix. WBR LeoP

I feel it is time to spend more time counseling and group counseling kids and spending less time on "coking them to the gills". And I`m doing fine after my surgery. WBR LeoP

I agree with the person that said articles like this fuel the fire and don't really put out an effective solution. I am currently in an education program, a good program. I have been teaching for several years in other areas and chose to get my certificate. It seems to me alot of the problems facing teachers has more to do with the "tasks" that have to be performed. The mountains of paperwork along with the risk of losing your job if your students fail (NCLB)can be crippling. We need to listen and learn from education experts that have been in the field and have put their theories to trial and error. If we get back to the business of teaching children to be life long learners and to have a love for learning, everything else will fall into place. Including passing test. We can't expect children to learn in stressful environments, we don't as adults thrive why would we expect children to.

To add to my other comment. In this country until we start respecting teachers on the same level as doctors and other professionals, things will not change. I can not wait to teach and am very excited about my choice to teach. Yet it saddens me that the one who teaches a future doctor, lawyer, actor, or sports professional does not get the credit deserved. Most teachers that are good teachers are so because they love their profession inspite of its drawbacks. And to Shane, a fellow student teacher, knowledge is only part of the package. When you have children with special needs or who have needs not been met(i.e. food) then knowledge becomes secondary to those needs. It does not become less important but as Maslow states you cannot meet higher needs without first addressing basic needs. I believe this ties into the teaching profession as well.

Teacher education fails when people assume that everyone's ambition is to wade through tech manuals, hook up Windows software and attend regional conferences just to be able to demonstrate an understanding of math and science. Math and science was here long before calculator tutorials and irritating PC's.

We need to let educators grow their own way....in a manner that's right for them. Sometime a PC is a help but I for one do not enjoy swimming in files, folders and My Documents just to show someone a little calculus or quantum mechanics. Must I play act like a techie to have a life?

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