Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Duncan to ed schools: End 'mediocre' training

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in prepared remarks circulating in advance of a speech Thursday, accuses many of the nation's schools of education of doing "a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom."

My colleague Nick Anderson, on the national education beat, and I found the advance text a meaty read.

Duncan's speech, to be delivered at Columbia University, goes further than any other I can remember from an education secretary in ripping into the failure of education schools to ready teachers for the challenges of the day, particularly the demand for academic growth in all students.

Duncan's speech points out two major deficiencies in education school teaching with which most critics would agree: They do a bad job teaching students how to manage disruptive classrooms, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, and they don't offer much in the way of training new teachers how to use data to improve their classroom results.

The excerpts of the speech we were given, however, did not appear to address one part of the classroom management problem that is often raised when successful teachers explain how they learned to keep students in order. These teachers often say they learned by doing, by facing a class alone without help, trying one thing after another until something worked for them. Education school deans have been critical of the Teach for America program, which pushes recent college graduates into classrooms with only a few weeks training, but teachers who have survived that toss-them-into-the-water approach say it works better than class management classes at their teacher's colleges.

Some education school professors say they try to teach class management but students are incapable of understanding what they are taught until they are in the classroom, struggling with unruly students. New programs have tried to create more time for students to face disruptive classes, but that is hard to arrange, since the most dysfunctional urban schools are unlikely to seek relationships with student teacher programs, and the program leaders are leery of such schools.

Here are excerpts circulated in advance by Team Duncan:

"[B]y almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom. America’s university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change--not evolutionary tinkering. But I am optimistic that, despite the obstacles to reform, real change is underway.”


“[M]ajor demographic shifts mean that teaching is going to be a booming profession in the years ahead—with school districts nationwide making up to 200,000 new, first-time hires annually.”


“I am urging every teacher education program today to make better outcomes for students the overarching mission that propels all their efforts. America’s great educational challenges require that this new generation of well-prepared teachers significantly boost student learning and increase college-readiness. President Obama has set an ambitious goal of having America regain its position as the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. But to reach that goal, both our K-12 system and our teacher preparation programs have to get dramatically better. The need is urgent--and the time to cling to the status quo has passed.”


“For decades, schools of education have been renowned for being cash cows for universities. The large enrollment in education schools and their relatively low overhead have made them profit-centers. But many universities have diverted those profits to more prestigious but under-enrolled graduate departments like physics--while doing little to invest in rigorous educational research and well-run clinical training.”


“Now the fact is that states, districts, and the federal government are also culpable for the persistence of weak teacher preparation programs. Most states routinely approve teacher education programs, and licensing exams typically measure basic skills and subject matter knowledge with paper-and-pencil tests without any real-world assessment of classroom readiness. Local mentoring programs for new teachers are poorly funded and often poorly organized at the district level.”


“The draft Race to the Top criteria would also reward states that publicly report and link student achievement data to the programs where teachers and principals were credentialed. And the federal government is funding a large expansion of teacher residency programs in high-needs schools, including one to be run out of Teachers College.”


“In the end, I don’t think the ingredients of a good teacher preparation are much of a mystery anymore. Our best programs are coherent, up-to-date, research-based, and provide students with subject mastery. They have a strong and substantial field-based program in local public schools that drives much of the course work in classroom management and student learning and prepares students to teach diverse pupils in high-needs settings. And these programs have a shared vision of what constitutes good teaching and best practices—including a single-minded focus on improving student learning and using data to inform instruction.”

By Washington Post editors  | October 21, 2009; 9:00 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Gerald W. Bracey, education's most acidic pundit, dead at 69
Next: Is America's best school too good for grade point bonuses?


Two thoughts:

1) Folks who are interested in this topic should check out Arthur Levine's "Educating School Teachers" report.

2) Duncan states, "In the end, I don’t think the ingredients of a good teacher preparation are much of a mystery anymore". I think this is a bit of an overstatement. I'm not sure there are any programs out there that do a truly outstanding job training teachers. There are some programs that do a so-so job, but at the end of the day, we just hope first-year teachers don't stink too much.

Posted by: proxy_knock | October 21, 2009 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Two thoughts:

1) I am very familiar with Arthur Levine's opinion piece on education schools. It highlights some very well known issues. It also manages to make sweeping negative generalizations that are not founded within the text of the manuscript.

2) I'm not sure how Duncan's remark is an overstatement. People should try not to take their own limited perceptions/experience and make inferences. That sort of behavior is part of the problem in all education...everyone thinks they are a 'crack' logician or statistician. There are a number, though a small number of highly regarded ed schools that on average do do a good job in preparation. You can find them among any list of the top 40-50 Ed schools. The problem is that many other schools do not do a good job, on average, of preparing all their teachers. It's not a mystery anymore because a small number of schools ARE doing a good job.

Posted by: wilsonmg_2000 | October 22, 2009 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Just read through part of Arthur Levine's report and understood that the following major areas of competence that every teacher is expected to learn and carry out (my paraphrasing) are: mastery of subject, maintaining discipline in classroom management, able to teach in a variety of methadologies, ability to address special needs students, able to integrate new technology with curriculum, able to handle parents,ability to understand different cultural backgrounds, able to help students with limited English proficiency, and I forget the other difficult can it be for anyone to garnish all of these tasks or for a University to see that they are imparted to beginning teachers?

Oh,and Arne Duncan has never taught, just managed...

I'm glad that I retired from teaching; I am constantly reading about politicians beating up on the education profession the way a man beats up on the wife who cannot manage a dozen children in a substandard house with few resources......

Oh, and "the best and brightest" don't go into education because the salaries are low...does that mean the best and brightest are always materialistic and greedy?

I've always thought that people get away with abusing the education profession because - below the college level - the majority of teachers are women and have little power. Don't think the medical or legal profession would put up with it.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | October 22, 2009 1:35 AM | Report abuse

I think the following would more adequately prepare potential teachers.

1) Teachers should have a very good or excellent knowledge of the subject(s) a teacher will be teaching. Novice and most experienced teachers should only teach subjects in their college major.

2) There should be more student teaching assignments for students before they complete their certification programs. Students should student teach at a minimum of two schools for at least nine weeks each.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | October 22, 2009 1:36 AM | Report abuse

They do a bad job teaching students how to manage disruptive classrooms, particularly in low-income neighborhoods,
There is no effective method to deal with disruptive students except to catch them young and create an environment where disruption is not tolerated.

This is not a teacher problem but a school system problem. Disruptive children in the first grade and second grade are simply accepted and tolerated. This sends a clear message to other children that this is the norm and you wind up with disruptive classrooms.

School systems have to provide a method of dealing with disruptive children as soon as they are recognized and not simply return them to the class room after some time in the principal's office.

Show all the children early on that disruptive children will not be tolerated and children will not become disruptive.

Be creative. Keep a disruptive young child in an isolated office until a parent comes to the school to take the child home for the day. If the parent does not come for the child by 3 p.m. call child services and bring the police into it.

Remove disruptive young children that do not respond and send them to separate schools from the normal children. The worst place for these children is a normal class room where the infection spreads.

Do nothing and you wind up with the current situation where disruption in the class room is considered the norm and as many student as possible join in. Threatening these students when they are older with suspension is non productive since most of these disruptive students know they will not graduate anyway.

This is a problem for the school system to handle. The only thing that a teacher's college should train teachers in this area is to make sure that their students find out the school system policy for dealing with disruptive children before applying or accepting a position.

Contrary to the Department of Education
most individuals seeking to be teachers want to teach children and not have to act as the military police.

When will the Department of Education understand that poor parents in poor neighborhoods send their children to cheap private schools since they know that the disruptive children will be immediately sent to the public schools?

These parents know that the public schools will do nothing with disruptive children and will simply tolerate them and spoil any chance for an education the other children.

Putting the emphasis on teachers to totally handle disruptive children shows that the Department of Education does not understand the problem.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 22, 2009 3:02 AM | Report abuse

wilsonmg_2000 - Which programs are you referring to that do a good job of teacher prep on average? While I've done extensive research on this subject, I'll readily admit that I don't have intimate knowledge of every single ed school or teacher prep program out there. So if there are good - or dare I even say outstanding programs out there - I'd love to learn more about them. That said, my experience has been that while there are some programs that do a BETTER job of prepping their graduates for teaching, there aren't any that do a good job in an absolute sense. I'd love to be shown otherwise.

Posted by: proxy_knock | October 22, 2009 6:00 AM | Report abuse

Progressive teacher colleges, school boards and state legislatures recognize that Physical/Corporal Punishment of Children in Schools is falling out of favor worldwide and have banned paddling, opting to train educators in and implement proven more effective school-wide positive behavior support discipline methods. Corporal Punishment of Children in Schools is an outmoded, ineffective and dangerous practice that has been banned in more than l00 countries. It puts school districts at risk for lawsuits for paddling injuries, which is the main reason many districts already have abandoned it.

Research indicates that spanking lowers children’s IQ’s. Research on toddlers and other studies following children into adolescence found Physical Punishment was BAD FOR CHILDREN and made them more likely to show anti-social behavior. Children who were exposed to physical discipline most frequently were two to three times more likely to show anti-social behavior as an adolescent, including things like getting into fights, being disobedient at home or at school, general delinquency and being in trouble with teachers. Violence begets violence is a lesson from history not just child psychology."

Over 50 National Children’s Health and Safety Organizations are OPPOSED to School Corporal Punishment including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Bar Association, the National PTA (Parent Teacher Association), National Education Association, among others. There are positive, nonviolent approaches to school discipline that have been proven to lead to safe environments in which children can learn. Positive behavioral supports teach children why what they did was wrong and gives them the tools necessary to improve their behavior. The staff in our schools must be trained on how to discipline children effectively and humanely.

Physical Punishment of schoolchildren is ILLEGAL in SCHOOLS in 30 STATES. Physical punishment used to be an accepted way to discipline sailors, military trainees, prison inmates and spouses, too. Only in some public and private schools is it still accepted. U.S. Congress is holding hearings on Abusive and DEADLY practices in SCHOOLS and MUST ABOLISH Physical/Corporal Punishment Nationwide of ALL Children in ALL Schools, The Cost is $0. America’s school children deserve Education’s "Best Practices".

Posted by: gworley1 | October 22, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

a few comments. Number one it is discouraging that Mr. Duncan has never taken an education course, nor has he had to "manage" a classroom.

Number 2: the best prep would be for teacher candidates to have an apprenticeship program. This would go beyond student teaching, where the teacher essentially pays to volunteer in the school; they would be paid (at a lower rate than regular teachers) and have a mentor for a full year, with gradual release of classroom "ownership;" The mentor would be a seasoned, perhaps national board certified teacher.

Number 3, Teach for America graduates typically..i.e the majority, stay for the 2 year commitment and get out to pursue a paid for (via TOA) master's program. All teachers, whether TOA, traditonal route, or other non-traditional route will say the first year is the hardest followed by the second, by the third they "know" what they are doing, regardless of how they obtained their certification.

TOA doesn't bother me because it isn't "traditional" it bothers me because the majority don't stay in the field, and leave right when they would essentially be a "good/effective teacher"

Posted by: researcher2 | October 22, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Another 'duh' moment from a leader - perhaps these are necessary so that more folks realize the wisdom but it does get old to see common sense identified as news!
No one can teach or learn without attention and concentration, so teachers must of course have some system[s] for controlling their classroom. The only way to learn to do that is to do it! Five-year programs, which schools like the University of New Hampshire have had for 30+ years, where prospective teacher candidates earn an undergraduate degree and then spend a fifth year as a full-time intern, are an excellent model.
However, to really deal with the problem, education also needs something like medical internships, where teachers 'ease into' the profession. If new teachers were given 2-3 classes a day, instead of 5 and one of those was team-taught with a good veteran teacher, along with much observation and TIME to discuss, plan, and reflect, our students would be much better off.

Posted by: aspnh | October 22, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Arne Duncan. I learned more in 8 weeks of student teaching than in 4 years of college. And when in graduate school and needed 9 hours of electives, the joke was, "take education courses" because they were easy. (I do not have my Master's Degree in Education.) seems when trying to find a "cure" for what ails public schools, the finger is always pointed to those who work in the classroom.

What about the Human Resources Department that hires these poorly trained, idealistic, prospective teachers? In my school district they have hired people who have been designated as "Do Not Hire" by the cooperating teacher. If TFA recruits are assigned a class after only a short-training period how can we think anyone will respect our jobs? Talk about belittling a profession?

The finger also has to point back to all levels of government that tout education as a priority, but after election time, public schools fall to the bottom of the "needs" stack.

The finger then moves to a society, including teacher unions and other professional organizations as well as federal and state governments, who have done a lousy job selling the importance of being educated. We can't expect parents who they, themselves, were abandoned by the education system to sell the importance of public schools to their children. We, as a nation, must emphasize the benefits of education.

The finger moves next to the media who focuses on negative stories about teachers and public schools. If some listeners/readers/watchers are naive enough to believe Obama is not an American citizen, it doesn't take much to convince them that all public school teachers are incompetent.

Salaries must improve. If I knew I would graduate from college with a $50,000, $60,000 or more debt, would I major in a in education? Probably not. And most teachers I know are telling there own sons and daughters to avoid teaching as a career. Starting salaries are not bad. However the incremental increases during a 30 year career moves retirement pay to less than double the starting salaries... making retirement worse.

Teaching school is more than getting in front of a class and spouting facts. The nuances and commitment to maintaining class focus is demanding and requires a great deal of energy and creativity on the part of the teacher. Common sense, fairness, and good decision-making are often the secrets behind a successful teacher as much as subject matter knowledge.

There is not a single cure for improving public schools and student achievement. What it will take is a pragmatic commitment to solving these problems. The issues preventing many of our children from receiving the education they deserve are varied and complicated. One teacher, or one strategy is not the answer to this test.

Posted by: ilcn | October 22, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Classroom management is not something that can be taught outside of actually being in a classroom, in my opinion. TFA doesn't really attempt it. Maybe our ed schools shouldn't either. What our ed schools offer preservice teachers doesn't have to be classroom management. They can offer teachers so many other things (child development, content area courses) and do those things well. Maybe we should learn to accept that classroom management must be learned the hard way.

Posted by: Jenny04 | October 22, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

bsallamack is absolutely right. Some individual teachers have mastered the art of keeping their classes in order in a disorderly school, but the most effective approach to class management is schoolwide. I should have said that.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 22, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Overhauling Teacher Prep:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's call for an overhaul of teacher preparation programs is certainly warranted. Reports such as Arthur Levine's in 2006 have highlighted weaknesses in the training received by many graduates of traditional, university-based teacher preparation programs.

I'm one however who believes that there is role both for university-based as well as alternative providers of teacher preparation, such as Teach For America and The New Teacher Project. In a policy brief for the New Teacher Center (and related blog post), I discuss some promising partnerships between institutions of higher education and school districts -- teacher training pipelines that by and large provide the hands-on experience and training called for by Secretary Duncan and contained within many other diagnoses of what ails traditional teacher prep.

Likewise, the Carnegie Corporation's Teachers for a New Era initiative provides evidence of what effective university-based programs can and should look like.

To answer the Secretary's call, we needn't start from scratch.

Posted by: liam25 | October 22, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I grew up in a college town and we had more than our share of student teachers. They were usually very nice students but not particularly effective teachers.

The worst was towards the end of their stint when the real teacher left the student teacher to fend for his/her-self. Their lack of skill in handling the class showed and even as a kid I was aware that they weren't doing a very good job.

I think apprentice programs would be a good idea, but it's not fair to the STUDENTS to stick them with student teachers all the time.

Posted by: RedBird27 | October 22, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I think it's disappointing that we have continued the politics of blame, but have just shifted the focus. Now, instead of blaming teachers, it seems that we are blaming teacher trainers. I'm not exactly sure why we seem to gravitate toward what we perceive as the "simplest" solution to a problem without actually recognizing the complexity of the problem itself. Why are students misbehaving? Why don't students and parents believe in the institution of school? Why are there tremendous cultural differences between teachers, administrators, and students that cannot just be whisked under the rug? In my opinion, the answer does not lie in shifting blame from one group to another, but rather in accepting responsibility. We must accept the realities of a diverse population that is struggling under economic and social hardship. Only when we try to address these underlying concerns will education improve, and it will not happen before we do so.

Posted by: TeacherTrainer | October 22, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Just because most people learn classroom management "the hard way" by using the “toss-them-into-the-water approach” doesn't mean it's the best or only way to do it effectively. It sounds like classroom management in the 21st century involves high-level group dynamics skills and psychological knowledge usually taught in masters level social work or ed psychology classes. Such training involves theoretical knowledge and internships with skilled mentors.

Certainly some people can develop the needed skills through personal study and trial and error – but it’s done at the expense of the teachers and their students and just dumps those incipient teachers who don’t learn well using the sink or swim method. Even carefully and adequately trained people need time once on the job to develop the style that works best for them, and they can best do that when they have a good basic theoretical and practical grounding.

If the realities of the 21 century classroom requires additional, higher level skills, then the teacher training period needs to be longer and involve more psych training and mentoring. Can you imagine the medical profession saying that doctors had to face the realities of 21st century medicine and then suggest a viable solution was to throw young doctors into clinics and let them sink or swim?

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

In response to efavorite, I do agree with some of your points about psych training. At the same time, I don't think any amount of academic training can allow teachers from mostly middle-class and affluent backgrounds to identify with students and families from impoverished backgrounds. There are all sorts of cultural complications, as well. Sensitivity training, perhaps, but unless teachers, administrators, and policymakers truly "get in the trenches" to experience the abject hopelessness felt by many students (that they may not even be able to articulate) because of the economic and social decimation of their neighborhoods.

Posted by: TeacherTrainer | October 22, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

...Unless folks get in the trenches and uncover their own biases as a result of their own priviledged backgrounds, we will not be able to make any progress. The difficulties with education are not pedagogic, but rather systemic--jobs, economy, health care, nutrition, etc.

Posted by: TeacherTrainer | October 22, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

TeacherTrainer - agreed - that's why I mentioned internships. I'll elaborate to say that I don't just mean typical student teaching, but additional internship time "in the trenches" as you say, with the type of difficult students that 21st century teachers are supposed to be able to handle.

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

efavorite, I must have misinterpreted. I'm glad that you expanded on that comment. But, I must ask, why are these students labeled "difficult?" Again, the real difficulty is the lives that these students are living; their behavior is a product of both their home environments and their background cultures and the lack of opportunities that they face. "Our" culture is not necessarily the "correct" culture; it would be just as easy for students from impoverished backgrounds to label "us" as "difficult," because we do not conform to their worldview either. Who's to say who's culture should be prioritized over someone else's?

Posted by: TeacherTrainer | October 22, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The term classroom management reminds me of my training as an MP and the term mob control.

Classroom management should be simple and the disruptive child or student is sent to the principal and dealt with.

In many affluent school districts this mean these children are identified early and placed into an alternative school system and not allowed to infect the normal children.

One tires of the trite actions of the Department of Education. The Department of Education should lead and not simply give us pablum.

Where are the yearly National tests to measure education in this nation?

Where are the National tests that do not take a year to obtain the results of these tests?

Where are the National guidelines for schools to deal with problems?

Where are the National guidelines for teaching colleges?

So far this Department of Education of this administration has given us the same as the last administration.

Stress on worthless local "standardized" tests and continuation of the policy of "test them until they drop".

New billions to spend on local computer systems to tabulate and compare the results of worthless local "standardized" tests.

A hands off Department of Education that still will not address the problem of multiple school boards that should be provided guidance and assistance from the Department of Education instead of doing it on their own. How many billions are wasted every year by a system where each local school system simply individually pay for services that could be provided by the Department of Education? For example currently the cost of testing is 50 times higher than it should be as each state develops their own tests. 50 times the costs resulting in worthless "standarized" test.

It appears impossible to the Department of Education to start offering services to states on a voluntary basis instead of continuously raising the cost of education by paying 50 times the cost for every service.

If the Department of Education feels there is a problems with colleges for teachers there should be a Department of Education program to address these problems instead of simply pointing the finger.

Government is suppose to address problems and offer solutions and not simply point the finger. Any yokel can do that.

The Department of Education claimed that it was the teachers that were to blame. This Department of Education claims that it is the teacher colleges that are to blame.

It is always amazing in this country that government is never to blame.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 22, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

But, I must ask, why are these students labeled "difficult?"
Continuously disruptive children are not difficult.

These are the aggressive and prone to violence children.

At seven they rip necklaces off of girl students. They convince other boys in the class room to touch girls in their genital area. They continuously interrupt the teacher and make it almost impossible for a teacher to teach the other children. There mere presence in the class room contradicts the idea that children should listen to teachers.

They are the children that will be tolerated and accepted in normal classes until a city such as Chicago will spend millions to identify the 200 students most likely to be involved in murder.

Any first grade teacher or second grade teacher can identify these children yet they are simply passed on in normal classes and create followers who emulate the aggressive and violence prone behavior.

A small percentage of these children will be found in affluent areas and are usually dealt with while the large percentage of these children in poverty areas are simply tolerated and passed on in the public school system.

These children need to be identified and placed in separate classes and not thrown into normal classes.

In business a manager looks at the workplace to identify problems that make workers ineffective and corrects these problems.

In public education managers from the head of the Department of Education down to the principal simply ignore problems that they are well aware of and simply expect teachers totally on their own to deal with these problems.

The aggressive and prone to violence children have been created in many cases from neglect and violence. This is saddening but at the same time these children can not be in class rooms with normal children.

This is one of the major problems of public school systems in poverty areas but it is ignored until these aggressive and violence prone children grow older and start murdering other students in our cities as is the case in Chicago.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 22, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

basallamack - all excellent points - I'm beginning to think that blaming teachers is the acceptable thing to do and substitutes for actually trying to fix the problem.

teachertrainer - I won't get into the "culture" argument, but will just say that disruptive behavior however it’s defined should be addressed by experts. If teachers are expected to be experts then they should have special training and be treated like professionals – not thrown into a situation to see if they sink or swim.

Also, no one expects even experts to completely "fix" the behaviors of the people they serve. Imagine psychologists being fired because the alcoholics they treated relapsed, or doctors fired because their obese patients don’t lose weight. It's accepted that professionals can't solve all the problems of their patients. Yet teachers are expected to fix their students - to get them to learn - above all to improve on standardized tests - no matter what else is going on in their lives. And if the teacher suggests that there might be something about the students that makes it difficult or impossible for them to excel, it's the teacher's fault for having the wrong attitude.

Incredible. Talk about lack of critical thinking skills.

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

And once again within these commentary pages, we have uninformed critiques of a system and a culture--by people who are not teachers, university professors, researchers, and probably have never even visited impoverished areas. My point is made by the very threads appearing here; most people seem to think that their own knowledge / experience trumps that of all others. But no one has a monopoly on the truth.

At this point, I think it's time for me to sign off this thread. I am sure that what I am writing will fall on ears that will not listen: your own experience is scarcely representative of the entire world's, and your own prescriptions are scarcely scratching the surface of the complexity of the issues you are attempting to address. I applaud your passion, but I think it is important to seek questions and answers before manufacturing my own brand of truth and trying to pass it off as universal.

Posted by: TeacherTrainer | October 22, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Teachertrainer - sorry to see you go. I wish you'd stick around to be specific about some of your criticisms. It seems like you're doing what you accuse others of when you say, "I'm sure that what I'm writing will fall on deaf ears."

How do you know? And even if some unqualified (in your eyes) people disagree with you, at least you will have gotten your thoughts out to a wider audience.

Truly, it seems rather elitist to sign off this way. This is an open forum, not a training session.

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

This nation has serious problems in public education and it is the fault of the Federal government and specifically the Department of Education.

For eight years we have had the Federal government policy of "test them until they drop" and now we still have the continuation of this policy with the new administration.

Instead of new staff in the Department of Education to start to understand the problems and devise methods to deal with these problem we still have a one size fits all policy that is ineffective and ludicrous and serves no purpose except to allow the politicians to shift the blame to others.

The current education policy of this nation is a dead end and needs to be changed. The government has to stop wasting billions on local "standardized" tests that are meaningless.

National tests have to be developed to provide real information on problems in education. This is the only purpose of testing.

Poor performance on National tests are an indication of problems at a school system. They are simply not an indication of the poor performance of teachers. Only politicians would dream up this idea.

With this new administration we expected better but it appears that in education and in many other areas this administration is giving us the same ineffective and ludicrous ideas of the previous admininstration.

From the comical Great Dude we have gone to the Great Dud.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 22, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

get in the trenches" to experience the abject hopelessness felt by many students (that they may not even be able to articulate) because of the economic and social decimation of their neighborhoods.
Public schools can not address all of the problems of poverty.

The public schools in poverty areas should provide a safe haven for children. Public schools do not provide this safe haven and from day one children see a system that simply accepts and tolerate the aggressive and violence prone children by placing them in the same class room with the children who desire a safe haven.

The fact that our educational leaders talk about class management instead of teaching children to love learning is an indication that in poverty areas public schools are not a safe haven and political leaders are willing to completely ignore this reality.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 22, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

—including a single-minded focus on improving student learning and using data to inform instruction.”

Improve student test scores by "teaching to the test".

Bring back the comical Great Dude as he at least provided us with some laughs to help with the frustrations at his policies.

Now we have the thinkers from Chicago who only makes us want to tear out our hair at their absurd acceptance of such ludicrous policy.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 22, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Though in the eyes of his critics no amount of "proof" would be enough to deem Mr. Duncan "experienced in the classroom," I observed firsthand the day-to-day, double-digit hours he put-in in the truly comprehensive and educationally savvy support of a group of "I have a dream" students from inner-city Chicago in the early to mid-1990s. He cobbled together truly effective academic and social services support for this group of young women, and many of his current ideas of extended school hours, school-year extensions and "wrap around" social services for students were developed authentically (and with a lot of teaching sweat) by Mr. Duncan. In fact, one of the last times I visited with him in 1995, Mr. Duncan was working with his kids and small staff in an old and beaten-up, converted community center on a mid-summer day that was literally 105 degrees! Duncan created a most impressive, academically sound program in one of our nation's poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods.

Sure, soon thereafter, Duncan was fast-tracked to higher and still higher educational posts, eventually rising to the highest role in U.S. education, but it's inaccurate and unfair to label him a bureaucrat with no experience in the classroom. I know differently, and I think it's about time Mr. Duncan's naysayers knew about it too.

J. Monahan, Durham, NH

Posted by: jmonahan | October 22, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

We are beating our heads against the wall until we, as a nation, do a better job of selling the importance of being educated.

These students, the ones who cause the greatest problems for teachers, are probably the children of parents who themselves felt abandoned and betrayed by public schools.

We can not expect any teacher, any education guru to "fix" the problems existing in the toughest schools or the toughest classes until these kids and their parents realize the importance of being educated.

We can segregate the good from the bad, send kids to the office, plan the most wonderful and thought provoking lessons, call home, but the chronic behavior problems will continue to sabatoge the efforts of public schools and their teachers until the under-educated buy in to the system.

Posted by: ilcn | October 22, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

... I think it's about time Mr. Duncan's naysayers knew about it too.

J. Monahan, Durham, NH
I am not concerned with Mr. Duncan's past actions but only with his actions as head of the Department of Education.

None of these actions indicate any policy to deal with problems of the public schools.

Some of these major problems are:

Unsafe public schools in poverty areas.

Public schools that are overwhelmed with children that have a problem with English.

Public schools that do not have the above problems and are simply lumped in with the one size fits all educational policy of the Department of Education.

A public school system that is totally decentralized and continually has to overpay because of the lack of the willingness of the federal government to provide access to centralization of services.

A primary school educational system that in the age of computers is still functioning in the mode of chalkboards and erasures. The federal government has still not provided a blueprint for schools for using computers to enhance learning.

The unwillingness of the Department of Education to provide national testing on a yearly basis and instead their support for the expansion of the worthless local "standardized" tests.

Full support by Mr. Duncan for the absurdity of the "test them until they drop" policy of the Department of Education.

Mr. Duncan may have performed admirably in his previous positions but I do see any signs of this in his current position.

The supporters of Mr. Duncan should remember that heads of school systems in regard to teachers only consider the most current performance with no regard to past performance. In fact I am sure that Mr. Duncan approves of this management approach and would not be adverse to being judged on the same basis.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 22, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

We can segregate the good from the bad, send kids to the office, plan the most wonderful and thought provoking lessons, call home, but the chronic behavior problems will continue to sabatoge the efforts of public schools and their teachers until the under-educated buy in to the system.

Posted by: ilcn`
Children in poverty will buy into the value of education when we buy into the value of education to lessen violence and the need to build prisons.

So far we show children that education is unimportant by doing nothing and totally ignoring the problems.

How can we show children the importance of education when schools totally tolerate and accept the children who by their actions proclaim that education is worthless?

Education in poverty areas is like triage, you work to save the ones that can be saved. Over generations this reduces the number that can not be saved.

The current policy is ignoring the ones that can be saved and over generations just producing more that can not be saved.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 22, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

but the chronic behavior problems will continue to sabatoge the efforts of public schools and their teachers
These children may be the children of drug addicts or the children of parents who have savagely beaten their children from an early age.

At the same time there are many children in public school systems in poverty areas who are saveable.

Educators may proclaim that teachers are there to address all of the inequalities of children but this is absurd and just the willingness of these educators to totally ignore the problem.

Public schools at an early age must separate the ones that can be saved from the ones that can not be saved. This is the only way to help the ones that can be saved.

Currently public schools in poverty areas do nothing to separate the savable from those who can not be saved and it is no surprise that the entire school systems becomes dysfunctional.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 22, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

wrap-around services! longer school hours! now you're talking -- but did Duncan mention any of that today when he was chastising education schools and placing responsibility on teachers to get students to improve academically or else?

Really, I'm asking.

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I think it's a moot point. My grandchildren are in school in Georgia, and one grandson isn't getting traditional letter or numerical grades.

He gets P or M or some other foolishness that apparently seeks to make all the children the same...about like labor unions.

Really outrageous. Another liberal "good idea."

Posted by: LarryG62 | October 22, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice if schools would progress to the point where students and their parents would be accountable for the actions and performance of students. If teachers had more parent support students would come to class prepared to learn. In the meantime schools will just be holding grounds or adolescent day cares.

Posted by: gauged34 | October 22, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Having been through the ed classes and then taught "unruly" students from low income inner city environments, I can attest that the classroom management coursework is all but useless. I can also attest that the atmosphere in these schools is so chaotic that only a very small minority could survive and work effectively in this environment. I would put the number at perhaps 1-in-6 or 1-in-7. The problem really isn't the new teachers or their training, as woeful as it is. It's a school culture that no longer upholds any standards of performance or student behavior. It's actually worse than daycare. It's borderline juvenile detention for a very sizeable percentage, perhaps as high as 30 percent. More in some inner city schools.

Posted by: mfloydhall | October 23, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

In my school division, they have the same philosophy that Dan Snyder uses to run the Redskins...a new game plan every year, a few highly paid players, and someone making decisions for those in the field who has not, if ever, played the game.

Posted by: ilcn | October 23, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Oh, sure, the major problem in urban schools is discipline--NOT! That ignores funding inequities, community impoverishment, racism, segregation, unemployment, and misguided standards based reform. Anyone who maintains that discipline is the central problem (such as Duncan) hasn't read or has forgotten Kozol's Shame of the Nation where the urban districts have imposed discipline through drill-based, anti-educational strategies that harm students, destroy initiative, and undermine real learning.

And right, the major problem in schools of ed is the failure to teach future teachers how to use data to raise test scores. How ridiculous! That repeats a classic error of equating test scores with learning--and buys into bureaucratic, technocratic approaches to school reform. What a mess! I want teachers who are knowledgeable, passionate about their material, use innovative engaging methods, and care about their student-- not ones who are fixated on drilling students to score high on narrow, multiple choice, dumbed down, standardized tests.

Obama should have appointed a real educator such as Alfie Kohn, Susan Ohanian, Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot, Mike Apple, or Ted Sizer as his secretary of education. Then we might have had a chance at meaningful reform. Duncan's "Race to the Top" is only going to make the problems worse.

Posted by: Astrogal | October 23, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

If you want good insight into mediocre training, take a look at those who are teaching the teachers. A recent case in point, a one day writing workshop put on by an ivy league university with a prestigious teacher's college. The workshop was to present a new writing program to Alexandria teachers, who were then to implement the program in their schools (after one day of training mind you). While explaining components of writing which appear not to hold much value in this writing program (grammar, punctuation, and spelling to name a few) the presenter was asked about the use of similes in student writing. To the surprise and chagrin of teachers in attendance, the presenter did not know the difference between a simile and a metaphor. And this was a language arts presenter, from an ivy league university, talking to a group of teachers!

This is not only embarrassing, it shows the true mediocrity of the "training" teachers are subjected to on a constant basis. Staff development courses, seminars, and conferences for teachers are often nothing more then pep rallies or sales pitches for programs a school system has bought into and now must justify to it's community.

When not led by ill-informed ivy leaguers, often times the "conferences" are led by educational consultants who have spent little, if any, time in the classroom. The consultants regularly fill their presentations with Youtube clips, cartoons, self inflated poetry, songs, vague quotations, or segments from Hollywood movies. The "meat" of their presentations are of little value to college educated teachers and almost always conclude with "and our classroom package is available for sale on our website at..." What a scam! Could you imagine a seminar for attorneys operating this way?

The profession of teaching needs to demand better training. Insufficient training (as was the one day course in Alexandria) should be viewed as criminal. You wouldn't train a surgeon for one day and then send them into the OR. Proper training for teachers is imperative to the future of America's students. Teachers: The next time you attend training which presents gimmicks, seeks knowledge through a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, and then offers to sell you something at an outrageous price, walk out. It is the best thing you could do for you and for your students.

Posted by: anorthwhitehead | October 23, 2009 10:53 PM | Report abuse

1. I had a student teacher last year that was home schooled and suffered from TBI. I think WSU will take anybody that could fog a mirror. How he even got to student teaching is anybod's guess. I fired him-the university wouldn't.

2. Wall Street types get millions for running companies into the ground, but education is everbody's favorite whipping boy. Pay me like they pay at Goldman or AIG and I will give you an incredible school, and then I will run it into the ground and ask for a bailout.

Most people don't get it. Kozol made a living off of criticism but never offered a solution. Nothing will ever change until community and social values change.

Posted by: wsavoie | October 25, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

As an educator of more than twenty years who continually delivered on test scores in the classroom, I quote Duncan's language and respond where it says response.

since the most dysfunctional urban schools are unlikely to seek relationships with student teacher programs, and the program leaders are leery of such schools.

Response: What normative view is this? Just shows how too “lay folk” understand the intersection of race and class in the inner-city settings. It’s a disease to them, not a social condition that, perhaps (no kidding?!!!?), larger forces play a role in generating and maintaining. What about the deaths! Deaths in Chicago where "successful" Duncan was the CEO?

"[B]y almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom.

Response: Yes, but what standard are you talking about? This sort of generalized speech shows lack of careful thinking, at all. Is this “Harvard Grad” even well-educated, or is he just into sound bites, now?

“For decades, schools of education have been renowned for being cash cows for universities. The large enrollment in education schools and their relatively low overhead have made them profit-centers. But many universities have diverted those profits to more prestigious but under-enrolled graduate departments like physics--while doing little to invest in rigorous educational research and well-run clinical training.”

Response: Soft peddling now. Sound familiar?

Our best programs are coherent, up-to-date, research-based, and provide students with subject mastery. They have a strong and substantial field-based program in local public schools that drives much of the course work in classroom management and student learning and prepares students to teach diverse pupils in high-needs settings. And these programs have a shared vision of what constitutes good teaching and best practices—including a single-minded focus on improving student learning and using data to inform instruction.”

This sound like Darling-Hammond and the NYC-Stanford connection’s (substantial and important) influence in the debate. Unfortunately, it’s at the end, probably little read, not the head line. This is the most important part of the discussion, a part we work hard on executing, and it’s just not mentioned.

US Department of ED are traitors

Posted by: jjupp2002 | October 25, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company