06 December 2007

We Can Rebuild Him (or Her)

Edutopia is a wonderful (and free!) magazine published by the George Lucas Educational Foundation. I highly recommend signing up for a subscription (or perusing it on-line). This month's issue has a cover story on Building a Better Teacher. It does not include nifty sound effects from the $6M man.

As a teacher leader and someone who has an interest in nurturing those who are new to the profession, the Edutopia article caught my eye:

The crisis confronting teacher education is that, across the country, Fenwick's experience is the exception and Zipper's is the rule. Though there are some leading lights, far too many of America's 1,200-plus schools of education are mired in methods that isolate education from the arts and sciences, segregate the theory and practice of teaching, and provide insufficient time and support for future teachers to learn to work in real classrooms. Far too many universities, for their part, run education programs on the cheap.

The consequences are painfully clear: Half of all new educators abandon the profession within five years, costing schools an estimated $2.6 billion annually and leaving children in the neediest areas with the highest number of inexperienced teachers.

The delinquency in teacher preparation is nothing new, of course -- but it's growing more dire as we ask teachers to perform increasingly challenging tasks: to teach more complex skills to high and measurable standards, and to ensure that every child in an incredibly diverse generation learns these skills equally well. The three R's are not enough anymore.

I have often lamented my own prep program. It was woefully inadequate for the career I have managed to build. For the first few years, I was angry about that. How could the university have promoted their curriculum of study as one that was meaningful? As I've aged in this career, I've come to realize that it was unreasonable for me to assume that any program would have been able to properly prepare all of the students to be teachers in any and every situation; however, I still think that there are ways to do it better.

Edutopia thinks so, too, and highlights 10 teacher prep programs around the country who are helping to find answers to the teacher prep question. This is another article definitely worth your time and headspace.

Any other ideas out there about how to prepare others for the rigors of a career in education?


Barry Onishenko said...

As a newcomer to your site I have been enjoying the various discussions and links. Reading the the Edutopia article link I did take exception to some of the author's assertions and then found those same concerns articulated in the comments of another reader who said:
I’d like to know what research was referenced to say that, “Fenwick's experience is the exception and Zipper's is the rule.” The author offers one quote from one dissatisfied graduate from one program. Another quote says, “Half of all new educators abandon the profession within five years.” Does the research directly attribute this to ineffective teacher preparation programs? Or might this poor retention rate be related to a vast number of other challenges teachers experience in the over-standardardized, under-funded, low pay, low status profession? I’m simply suggesting that there’s plenty of blame to go around and we should be looking at the general lack of support our government provides education PreK-16. Again, the author offers, “Far too many universities, for their part, run education programs on the cheap.” This is particularly true of universities that are dependent on the state budget in California.

The Science Goddess said...

Why teachers leave the profession is definitely more complicated than just poor teacher ed programs. Researchers are continuing to tease the issue apart. The longer a teacher stays in the profession before leaving, the less likely his/her teacher prep program was the culprit.

Anecdotally speaking, I can think of maybe 3 teachers I've worked with over the last 17 years who believe their prep program truly readied them for the classroom. The rest of us are still shaking our tiny fists.

Universities run education programs on the cheap for many reasons. Texas Regents have mandated that all degrees must be able to be completed with 120 hours of coursework. This means programs have to pare down to bare essentials---because they can't force students to take extra classes which would prepare them.