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Posted at 10:57 AM ET, 11/16/2010

Experts: How to overhaul teacher ed (and my problem with their report)

By Valerie Strauss

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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By Valerie Strauss  | 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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Comments

What if your subject doesn't have a standardized test?

Posted by: celestun100 | November 16, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

In addition to the problems mentioned, it's also not surprising to see that NCATE has promoted accreditation as an important adjunct to improving teacher ed. NCATE actually DOES most of the accrediting, so this will just reinforce their alleged importance. Logrolling, for sure.

Posted by: seecee | November 16, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I find the anti-standardized testing viewpoint interesting in light of the approval of medical education. All med students pass Part I (end of second year)and Part II (end of fourth year)of the National Boards in order to advance/graduate. During residency training, all residents must take inservice exams every year and graduates must pass their specialty certification boards. Like the MCAT, all are national, standard tests, with huge implications for students' futures.

A far better comparison is between education and nursing majors. Despite the fact that entering ed students should know all of the subject-area content for ES-MS majors and most of it for secondary ed majors, ed schools have been unable to prepare future teachers successfully for actual classrooms. In contrast, nursing students must master new material in the sciences, pharmacology, dietetics etc and in the clinical courses, plus do large amounts of supervised clinical practice to enable them to pass the national, standardized licensure exam and begin professional practice (with a brief orientation).

Posted by: momof4md | November 16, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

momof4md - the tests the docs and nurses take are of their knowledge, not of their patients' compliance or recovery. See the difference?

Some teachers are now being rated not only on their knowledge, but of how much their students absorbed and retained. This would be like rating medical professionals down if their patients' continued to be ill or didn't comply with medical advice, even though the docs and nurses passed all of their exams with flying colors and provided the very best care to their patients.

Imagine how many would avoid treating certain patients or certain diseases (e.g. cancer, diabetes) if they were rated this way.

Posted by: efavorite | November 16, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

From today’s Birnbaum article on this subject:
“[Maryland Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick also said the state planned to use a new system to track student performance back to teachers and to the teaching schools that trained them. For now, she said, it would be "diagnostic," a way to help teaching programs find the areas they need to improve.” 11/16/10
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/16/AR2010111600008.html

There it is – “the Back Mapping” that Michelle Rhee recently referred to in such punitive terms:

"Now we have a new teacher evaluation system where we know who's ineffective, minimally effective and highly effective…. We're going to back-map where they came from, which schools produced these people. And if you are producing ineffective or minimally effective teachers, we're going to send them back to you." 10/29/10
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/28/AR2010102807383.html

I guess if all you have is teacher recruitment experience, everything looks like a way to fire teachers so new ones need to be hired.

Posted by: efavorite | November 16, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

So sad... a lot of students only come to school because of sports, or arts programs or other activities. As we become more and more cutthroat and test intensive, these programs with disappear.

In the name of "personal accountability" we will eventually eliminate most of the activities that teach young people what so many employers and corporations need - the abilities to work in and lead groups, communicate effectively, and solve problems creatively.

We do not need to sacrifice reading, writing, math and history to preserve these programs. We just need to get rid of top-down education management by people who don't truly understand what is going on in our classrooms. It's a shame this twisted "nothing matters but the test" mindset is invading teacher training.

Posted by: 1teacher1 | November 16, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

“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.”

A really stupid idea. Relying on a fraudulent testing system developed to throw more business to Kopp and Rhee's recruitment firm is gong to be used to evaluate teacher education programs. Should we let the udertakers develop a evaluation system for doctors and med schools?

Posted by: mcstowy | November 16, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

What if your subject doesn't have a standardized test?

Posted by: celestun100

Oh, they're planning to create them in Maryland and Prince George's County.

Posted by: edlharris | November 16, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, we must certainly make sure that standardized tests don't usurp the roles of other types of evaluation of student progress and teacher effectiveness. But they wouldn't exist if they didn't convey at least a little useful information.

Posted by: jane100000 | November 16, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I am saddened that high-stakes student data assessments drive so much of education now, but I must admit that teacher preparation programs in their current states need to be re-evaluated and re-tooled. My cousin recently went through a teacher prep program that focused mainly on something called TPA's. I read through my cousin's TPA and in my opinion, the whole TPA thing was a waste of time. I would much rather see her complete more observations, do more student teaching, get her hands dirty with the curriculum, or work more with kids than that TPA junk. Perhaps, this whole thing is a two steps forward and one step back scenario. At least, I sure hope it is.


Posted by: DHume1 | November 16, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

DHume1 is indeed an education expert.

Posted by: axolotl | November 16, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

And you, Sarah, are, without a doubt, a wannabe Sherlock Holmes who suffers from dementia and disassociative identity disorder. The only difference between us is that I do not need to remember the lies that I tell.

By the way, how's your mythos coming along?

Posted by: DHume1 | November 16, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Several thoughts:

Except for the clinical practice during training years, the medical analogies of how doctors and nurses do things compared to teachers has a major difference: teachers have to contend with 25-30+ students at the same time - nurses and doctors generally see their patients one on one, and that is quite a different ballgame.

I feel like many of the administrators and superintendents in K-12 Education who ought to know better are selling out or have lost whatever backbone they might have had.......where is the concern for the kind of pressure that all the standardized testing- and more testing - in putting on both students and teachers in such a way as to interfere with genuine learning?

I am in mourning for the liberal arts....and am afraid that the new teachers have no idea what they may have missed in their recent educations.

Thanks DHume1 for cluing me in on Sarah/axolotl's issues.......I've been wondering.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | November 17, 2010 1:58 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dave. Your impressive multiple expertise is really on display, just as it is in your cube.

For an instant I thought I was an artist-at-large. But I a am only one of those when I dispense BS, but never under the ax identity.

Finally, will you please stick to the topic. We crave your next ed. insight.

Posted by: axolotl | November 17, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Oh, they're planning to create them in Maryland and Prince George's County.

Posted by: edlharris | November 16, 2010 4:26 PM |
_______________________
Our teachers' association rep who attended the state EEC said that the state was leaving it to the local districts to develop tests in subjects that are currently not tested. Let's hope that's true as teachers in each district don't always have the same access to their students.

Posted by: musiclady | November 17, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

momof4md,

Are nurses and doctors rated by their patient's recovery - hopefully not. No matter how good the nurse or doctor they can't handle all the variables in patient's health. If someone smokes, how can medical personnel be held liable for the health of the patient's lungs?

But teachers are being rated by their student's test scores, irregardless of factors they cannot control.

Posted by: jlp19 | November 17, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Sarah,

Difficult to stick to the topic when I am done with it. I have nothing else to add. Wish I did, but I don't.

I did notice, however, that you haven't addressed the topic at all. It would bother me terribly if I were a hypocrite. I guess it doesn't bother you, though.

Anyways, how's the mythic opera coming along? I can't wait for the next installment. Very few people can create an entire myth around themselves effectively.

Posted by: DHume1 | November 17, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

And not one word about requiring would-be teachers to actually study an academic subject! So we continue to have well-"prepared" history teachers who have never studied history or English teachers who majored in math.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | November 17, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

And not one word about requiring would-be teachers to actually study an academic subject! So we continue to have well-"prepared" history teachers who have never studied history or English teachers who majored in math.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | November 17, 2010 4:15 PM
______________________
Actually part of NCLB was that there had to be a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. There are a number of things that determine whether or not a teacher is highly qualified, one of which is that the teacher majored in the subject they teach. In MD an English teacher who studied math would not be certified in English and they would be required to obtain that certification. The exception to that might be if an administrator makes someone teach one class out of their area.

Posted by: musiclady | November 17, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

"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."

As usual, Valerie Strauss has no idea what she's talking about. Here's a report on value-added from Brookings, and signed by Steven Glazerman, Mathematica Policy Research
Susanna Loeb, Stanford University
Dan Goldhaber, University of Washington
Douglas Staiger, Dartmouth University
Stephen Raudenbush, University of Chicago
Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies
If you know anything at all about education research, you know that these are top names that are not wedded to any ideological position (like Strauss and her pals are).

http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2010/1117_evaluating_teachers.aspx

Posted by: educationobserver | November 18, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

jane100000 wrote: "Valerie, we must certainly make sure that standardized tests don't usurp the roles of other types of evaluation of student progress and teacher effectiveness. But they wouldn't exist if they didn't convey at least a little useful information."

Want to understand why the standardized tests exist?? Here's a clue: Follow the money. Do you think it is a coincidence that Prescott Bush (W's granddad) and James H. McGraw (as in McGraw-Hill, the publisher of all those textbooks "aligned to the state standards", test prep materials, and a good portion of the tests themselves) were pals?? Seen a stock chart from McGraw-Hill lately? (Unprecidented growth after 1995--way better than the Dow)

Posted by: MathEdReseacher | November 18, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

All these reports done by so called education experts who are trying to make themselves important and needed. How about listening to the teachers, who supposedly are still teaching our children?! Allthough they mostly act as puppets with the ratio of 20:1, 20 administrators from different levels pulling the strings while 1 teacher tries to comply with every command.

As a former teacher from Finland I shiver at the thought of becoming one of these puppets. When I was a teacher, I was treated as a true professional; allowed to participate in the planning and evaluation (including selfevaluation!) of the curriculum, lesson plans, budgeting, the whole thing.

For the US system to move forward and up, it needs to get rid of the standardized tests and the whole top-down mentality, and use those resources to support the teachers & students. AND it needs an overhaul in the teacher preparation WITHOUT standardized tests. Teachers in training need a strong basis in academics & didactics. They need time to observe and teach in a classroom. They need constructive feedback, time to reflect with their co-students, and they need to learn how to use and do research.

The system as is, supports a ridiculous amount of administrators, experts, lobbyists, tests makers etc. The ones who matter the most, teachers & students, are at the bottom of the food chain. We have to change that, and use our money for the education not for the support staff.

Posted by: SaMu42 | November 21, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

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