Experts: How to overhaul teacher ed (and my problem with their report)
A big report by a panel of national experts was released Tuesday that calls for overhauling the way teachers are educated in the United States. It says that teacher ed programs should be less academic and based more on classroom experience in the model used by the medical profession.
The report, titled “Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice: A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers,” makes a number of smart, common-sense recommendations for improving teacher education programs:
- Admissions and graduation standards for would-be teachers should be strengthened.
- Accreditation for teacher education programs should be made tougher to weed out weak programs.
- Student education programs should model themselves on medical training programs that rely heavily on clinical training.
- Colleges and universities training teachers should work in partnership with school districts and states to change policy that promotes better teacher education.
- Higher education institutions and school districts should work together to design teacher prep programs, select students and assess their performance, and place them in classrooms.
It’s hard to argue with those recommendations. But it’s not hard to argue with this:
“All programs held to same standards; data-driven accountability based on measures of candidate performance and student achievement, including gains in standardized test scores. Data drives reform and continuous improvement.”
Standardized test scores? It’s not enough that we judge students, schools and teachers with standardized test scores? Now we are supposed to incorporate them into teacher preparation programs?
I may sound like a one-note blogger on this point of standardized tests, but what we do know is that they shouldn’t be used for anything really important. This is the consensus of every expert on assessment. The experience in New York City just showed the danger of relying on test scores: For years Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein, the school chancellor who just resigned, trumpeted increases in standardized test scores as evidence of the success of their reform program -- until state officials realized that the tests had become progressively easier and the scores meant nothing.
“Data drives reform and continuous improvement” is code for value-added assessment, the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers, another bad idea that has gained currency in today’s education reform world.
The Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning that produced the report is nothing but distinguished. It was commissioned by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and includes the leaders of the two biggest teachers unions in the country as well as representatives from higher education, K-12 school districts, state boards of education and working teachers.
Surely these panel members understand the problem with using standardized tests in this fashion, but because these assessments have become so embedded in our education culture and pseudo accountability systems that their use doesn’t get challenged.
The Blue Ribbon Panel does not have enforcement power, but it did persuade officials from eight states -- California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee -- to implement some of the recommendations.
You can read the whole report at the Web site of the National Council for accreditation of Teacher Education.
The panel calls for the overhauling of teacher education. A real overhaul would include an end to our reliance on standardized tests in every aspect of public education.
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| November 16, 2010; 10:57 AM ET
Categories: Standardized Tests, Teacher assessment, Teachers | Tags: blue ribbon panel, blue ribbon panel report, education programs need overhauling, effective teachers, preparing teachers, report on clinical practice, report on teacher education, report on teacher preparation, standardized tests, teacher assessment, teacher ed, teacher education, teacher education programs, teacher education through clinical practice, teacher preparation, teacher quality
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