A Clinic

Yesterday’s rollout of the new NCATE report occasioned a mostly predictable reaction.   Skeptics were skeptical, ed schools mostly silent, and Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss focused laser-like on the key accountability language in the entire report – and said that was bad news!  Notable exception and smart take from Fordham’s Daniela Fairchild.

Please.  Let’s be honest.  We spend billions on teacher preparation in this country when you total it all up and the results are, overall, horrendous.  The result of an enormous preparation, regulatory, and advocacy structure is that overall teachers going through the full-service programs don’t perform appreciably differently than those coming through non-traditional and more efficient routes.  The only folks who systematically under-perform are those coming through routes for emergency credentials with absolutely no training.  This is less of an indictment of the idea of teacher training per se than it is a poor reflection on how it’s done today.  Still, “the data show we’re better than warm bodies” really isn’t much of a rallying cry.  The data are clear on this across multiple geographies and the only people still fighting about it are the advocates.  From a qualitiative standpoint I can tell you that as a former state board of education member the process of oversight for teacher preparation is a bad joke that borders on racketeering.  And, sadly, only a few states look at actual outcomes, meaning how well the people these programs prepare actually do in the classroom.

So that’s why NCATE’s move yesterday was important, they want to substantially change how it’s done today.  They called for ambitious change, tethered their credibility to it, and while the report includes a lot of the buzzwords that drive ed school critics bonkers, it has some important ideas in it.  In particular the idea that new teachers need more hands-on training, one-size doesn’t fit all, and that wherever possible outcomes should inform program accountability and approval.  That’s a big deal.  Whether they can pull it off remains to be seen.  This is a change-averse and often evidence-impervious community and, as I alluded to above, the regulatory capture is simply beyond belief.  But they deserve credit for pushing the issue.

If I were Rick Hess here’s where I’d insert a half-dozen fawning adjectives to describe NCATE’s president, Jim Cilbulka.  I’ll just say he’s chosen a harder path than he had to and we should wish him success.   That’s why I agreed to serve on the panel he convened to develop the report.  Something has to change, Cibulka gets that and has decided to lean into it.

5 Responses to “A Clinic”

  1. phillipmarlowe Says:

    Andy:

    Please. Let’s be honest. We spend billions on teacher preparation in this country when you total it all up and the results are, overall, horrendous.

    Let’s get clear on the basic facts about black students’ apparent achievement. This involves some news that is good; some news that is bad; and some news that falls in between:

    The bad news: On average, black kids score still substantially lower than white kids on national math/reading tests.

    The better news: These “achievement gaps” are substantially smaller than they were when NAEP testing began, in the early 1970s.

    The good news: Black and Hispanic kids have been scoring substantially better in the past fifteen years. Judged by conventional rules of thumb, the score gains have been quite strong.

    That bad news is a painful legacy of our brutal racial history. But on its face, that good news is really quite good; the gains in test scores have been substantial since the mid-1990s. And yet, we have never seen a major news org report or discuss that rise in the scores of minority kids. (The statements we make about black kids here are also true about Hispanic children.)

    Minority test scores have been on the rise. This good news has been disappeared.

    This silence is astounding—and evil. In fairness, it does reflect the hall-of-mirrors quality of much of our broken American discourse. But it keeps the public from knowing the truth, even as journalistic and academic elites insist that nothing is working in our schools—and that this is the fault of our teachers, with their infernal unions.

  2. Chris Smyr Says:

    Phillip:

    Andy has a point. 30+ years since the onset of NAEP testing and we’re closer to the starting gate than the finish line.

    http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/studies/2009455.pdf

    http://nationsreportcard.gov/ltt_2008/ltt0001.asp

    But what you left out in quoting Andy clarifies what he’s specifically referring to:

    “The result of an enormous preparation, regulatory, and advocacy structure is that overall teachers going through the full-service programs don’t perform appreciably differently than those coming through non-traditional and more efficient routes. The only folks who systematically under-perform are those coming through routes for emergency credentials with absolutely no training.”

    The question is not whether there has been progress made (there has). What we should be asking is, should we keep our defunct edu strategies as is and hope that in another 30 years we’ll have closed the gaps by a few more points?

    “But it keeps the public from knowing the truth, even as journalistic and academic elites insist that nothing is working in our schools—and that this is the fault of our teachers, with their infernal unions.”

    What is the truth that you want them to know? That students are making slim gains on tests despite the problems inherent in letting accountability fall to the wayside? Or is it that this slim growth spread over 30+ years is truly enthralling?

    And as we look upon the Eternally Lit “It’s the Teachers’ Fault!” Strawman once again, I can only hope that the public is as devoted to the truth as you claim to be.

  3. Pamela Says:

    It IS a racket. I got a traditional credential in CA.

    I wanted more practical experience, ie, taking all the potential language arts TEs, splitting into groups, preparing actual lessons using them not just our professor’s mandatory format and assigned topic. I wanted to spend time after that critiquing the books so we’d know something about the strengths and weakness of all the curriculums that were going to be dumped on us as new teachers, because it’s really hard to prepare for every day and look at a year at a time at the same time. This is one advantage teachers who have taught many curriculums over many years have that could actually be bestowed upon newbie teachers, where dealing with the one outlying kid/outlying behavior is not.

    But I also wanted more professors who were classroom teachers, not tenured university faculty. In my experience, the teachers did the better job of showing us the methodology of dealing with concepts and really getting to the heart of the issues, say, with really getting number sense into kids. They also had the most to say about pitfalls we could avoid, ways to make our classroom more interesting, assessment methods that work, are informative and stand up to scrutiny, and so much other practical advice. It was the tenured faculty that stood up and lectured to us about how we should never teach in a lecturing style with our students, and it was the content and the readings in their classes that I could not relate to anything I needed or did when I started teaching. Of course, all this talk of credential reform…. those tenured professors are going to be more attractive when we all scream “highly qualified under NCLB” and apply it to the credentialing program.

  4. phillipmarlowe Says:

    Andrew:

    I can tell you that as a former state board of education member…

    That would be the BOE of Virginia back in the mid 2000 when the VA BOE was putting out inaccurate school testing data.

  5. Donna Says:

    I am certainly glad to see that someone is taking a look at these teacher preparation programs. I definitely believe that preparation is needed, but why does it cost so much especially if it doesn’t produce a higher quality teacher.

    I know from personal experience that the best teachers I had and the best teachers that i work with often have a natural love for the field. It has nothing to do with high priced prep programs. In a field that is so often short of quality committed workers, the price to follow this field should be a whole lot less.

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