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Friday, November 20, 2009

Don't Blame the Schools of Education.

They are just doing the best they can with what they've got, says Pedro Noguera. First he grants the schools of education deserve some criticism.

It’s true that many schools of education don’t recruit the best students into the profession... and that too often the research produced in schools of education is of little use to public schools...As is true for American universities generally, there is considerable variability in quality among the nation’s schools of education.

Many graduates of even the best schools of education lack effectiveness in the classroom.

Graduates of teacher-credential programs at my university, for example, and at Teachers College, Columbia University, are highly sought after, even at a time when teaching jobs are scarce. Does this mean that they are highly effective when they enter schools? In many cases, they are not.

The game is rigged against these promising graduates.

But this is not because they lack the intellect or dedication. Rather, it is largely because they are frequently assigned to work in the most dysfunctional schools and are expected to teach the most disadvantaged students. This is precisely what many schools and districts do to new teachers.

I completely agree that many schools essentially sabotage their new teachers.

In fact, there are schools which routinely assign the most difficult students to the most novice teachers. Older teachers believe they have paid their dues and deserve less challenging students even as their competence presumably improves with experience.

Mr. Noguera has four recommendations:

1. Give schools of education a financial reason for establishing lab schools in difficult areas.
2. Provide more debt relief for math and science majors.
3. Incentivize academia to collaborate with classroom teachers in the development arts, humanities, and science curricula.
4. Use work-study to motivate undergraduates to tutor in high-need schools.

I will add a fifth recommendation. Schools should hire the veteran math and science teachers they have pushed away for decades.
schools could also welcome veteran teachers who move into their communities as the valuable assets they are instead of viewing them as budget breakers. State credentialing commissions could remove the arbitrary obstacles that make it difficult for proven out-of-state teachers to get certified in their new state of residence.
I am not talking about alternative certification. I am talking about proven classroom veterans. I also agree with the first comment to Mr. Noguera's article.
Why not establish teacher-training programs with instructors who can show education students how to work effectively and exclusively in dysfunctional schools?
In fact, I did a small study of the curriculum vitae (resume for the uninitiated) of professors of education. The data confirms the common student perception that half of their professors of education do not have genuine teaching experience. It is difficult to find a professor of education with over ten years genuine teaching experience, and exceedingly rare to find one with more than twenty years.

Ironically, at precisely the time when a life-long teacher would be most valuable to the next generation of teachers training in our schools of education, they are at an extreme disadvantage. Anybody with a PhD goes to the head of the applicant line over dedicated teachers who were too busy actually teaching to go to graduate school. If they are hired, they will very likely be relegated to the ranks of the never-eligible-for-tenure. A little budget trouble and they are laid off on a last-in, first-out basis. Schools of education unload their most experienced teachers first. Maybe the schools of education could do with their own alternative certification program.

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