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Preparation routes: Teachers leading the way

What better way to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day than by sharing and discussing the ideas and experiences of teacher leaders? Today, CTQ released a report on teacher education, written by a team of 17 teachers with diverse preparation experiences. The report, TEACHING 2030: Leveraging Teacher Preparation 2.0, includes reflections on the current realities of teacher education, as well as recommendations for the future. The below post is adapated from my foreword to the report.

Debates continue to rage among analysts and researchers over whether university-based education schools should prepare teachers and how much training is needed before a new recruit teaches independently. Media outlets often portray teacher education as irrelevant at best. I am certain there is some truth that some education schools are guilty of emphasizing how children learn to read at the expense of making sure they know the mechanics of reading. But the critique of education schools often goes beyond the evidence—as well as beyond the pale. For example, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently made the claim that there are no special skills acquired in teacher training courses, only “snake-charming” ones. And there are “inside-the-Beltway” think tanks—using questionable research methods—that seem to make a decent living bashing education schools.

We know that there is often more variation within “traditional” and “alternative” approaches to teacher education than between them. But as described in TEACHING 2030: Leveraging Teacher Preparation 2.0, written by some of the nation’s best teachers, serious clinical preparation matters for early successes of new recruits. None of the top-performing nations in the world, such as Finland or Singapore, tolerates shortcuts into teaching. At the same time, our universities must continue to find innovative ways to ready nontraditional recruits for the rigors of teaching. Preservice teachers need customized preparation for the 21st-century pedagogical skills demanded by not just the Common Core State Standards, but the global economy in which students must participate.

Too much of today’s criticism of teacher education is driven by politics, not substance, and focuses on outdated issues instead of ones unique to the demands of 21st-century teaching and learning. Teacher preparation of today and tomorrow needs to equip new recruits to teach highly mobile students, develop their own assessments, improve data systems, engage parents and policymakers, and lead the transition of many of our high-needs schools into 24/7 community hubs.

I encourage you to dive into this report, written by educators who work with students every day. Their insights on “Teacher Prep 2.0” provide a much-needed antidote to the current debate, and their thinking on “Teacher Prep 3.0”—led by Emily Vickery—should lead the next generation of discussions and action around teacher-education reform. TEACHING 2030: Leveraging Teacher Preparation 2.0, penned by 17 classroom experts, transcends the current divide and sets a path for ensuring that every teacher is ready to teach what students need to know, now and in the future.

I encourage you to read and engage with the teachers' ideas and recommendations—then tell us what you think in the Collaboratory.

1 Comment

Amy Williams commented on June 19, 2013 at 9:40pm:

I stayed away from the field

I stayed away from the field of education for several years because I bought into negative stereotypes about teaching and teachers: That teaching isn't a serious profession or an intellectual activity (that, as Kristof suggests, it involves little more than 'humoring, taming, and enchanting'). Then I enrolled in a graduate seminar on ethics and pedagogy and led my first freshman writing workshop -- and realized that teaching is quite possibly the most interesting and rigorous profession that I could hope to have.

It's always distressing to hear teacher-ed bashing -- not because teacher programs aren't in need of serious critique -- but because these critiques are often so laden with stereotypes. Teaching is serious business, and it's problematic to assume that students' needs can be met by anyone with a dash of charisma or with an ivy league diploma.

Teachers need to know how to adapt curriculums to meet the diverse needs of their students; they need to be trained researchers who are capable of analyzing data and of engaging in meaningful reflections. Ideally, they should also be engaged in (educated) conversations about race, gender, class, disability and language. That kind of thing, I'm afraid, requires advanced study.   

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