Butchering the sacred (cash) cow

Edutopia’s decision to name the ’10 Leading’ teacher ed programs in the USA no doubt increased readership for its November cover story, ‘Building a Better Teacher: Confronting the Crisis in Teacher Training.’ It’s also sparking some lively commentary and debate (see end of article) that you can jump into.

One teacher-educator who commented on the story questioned the evidence supporting this statement: “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.” Are such programs really the exception, she asks?

She also questions the story’s suggestion that teacher ed programs are largely responsible for “Half of all new educators abandon(ing) 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.”

“Does the research directly attribute this to ineffective teacher preparation programs?,” she asks. “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?”

Teacher-educator defensiveness aside, it’s interesting to read the article’s descriptions of innovative approaches to teacher preparation and compare them to the program designs of the colleges and universities you might be familiar with. Are significant numbers of  teacher ed programs trending in this direction? Or are the majority still trapped in what the article calls a “devil’s bargain” — compromising quality to increase quantity (and thereby cater to local supply needs or serve as an institutional cash cow).

Don’t miss the links at the end of the article, leading to sidebars about each of the 10 teacher ed programs that Edutopia promises (on the cover of their print magazine) “will change the way we teach.”