NCATE On The March?

Keep an eye on this NCATE project on clinical experiences for teachers.   It’s a big step for the organization and a signal for the field.   Inside Higher Ed is here, Chronicle of Higher Ed is here.    Disc:  I’m on the panel.  Backstory: here’s NCATE President Cibulka at AEI last year.

Update: In the comments section Claus von Zastrow, Minister of Propaganda for the education status quo, and a second commenter don’t see much news in the NCATE project. This is old news they say. OK. If it’s old news, and seemingly so widely supported, then why hasn’t the idea gone further in more than two-decades?

Perhaps it’s because it is challenging on the politics and the substance, hence why Jim Cibulka deserves credit for taking it on.

Any real shift toward “clinically” oriented training would necessarily involve a shift away from traditional colleges of education toward more job-embedded training. This wouldn’t eliminate the need for education professors but would change the composition of much of the work. The colleges and the people who work in them are not stupid and know what that would mean at some level…jobs. Hence one source of quiet resistance. Because costs are an issue everyone knows that at some level the resource question is a zero-sum one and new training can’t be layered on the old. Another major obstacle.

While I’m not going to blog the NCATE panel’s discussions, I’m not giving away any secrets by noting that even among those disposed toward these ideas there are big consensus gaps around how much pluralism should exist in teacher preparation, how to structure and evaluate these programs, and even what effective teaching is really about. I’ve been privileged to serve on the oversight committees/boards of two education schools, at UVA and Harvard, and the challenges of leadership and change in these institutions are daunting and fascinating even more so in my experience than some other departments. The good deans deserve more credit than they get.

It’s important to remember that while the debate about teacher preparation is often characterized as Linda Darling-Hammond versus the reformers, that’s really not quite right. Rather, it’s Linda and the reformers debating both with each other but also at the same time with much of the ed school establishment. In other words there is a no-change camp and then several different change camps. In the relative world of education politics the ed schools much prefer Linda to the alternatives but given the choice they’d take ‘none of the above.’

That’s why progress is slow and it’s why given the challenges of the debate anyone willing to take it on rather than take the easy path deserves credit. Cibulka could have done the latter. And it’s also why the work of this panel, if it can generate a strong report with actionable ideas, could help move the field because of the lever that NCATE could be.

4 Replies to “NCATE On The March?”

  1. Hate to break it to you, but NCATE has been wrestling with this issue for at least 20 years. I think it’s somewhat ironic (not) that the other day you were able to use a NYTimes piece on TFA as a way to backhand AACTE, and now you’re on a panel with Sharon. And a bunch of other “traditional” teacher prep illuminati. This isn’t a big step. It’s a small step of many that have been happening over the years. Nancy Zimpher for one has been working on this particular issue at least that long (that I know of).

    p.s., the biggest issue in clinical experiences isn’t collaboration with K-12 (which *is* a big issue) but it’s cost. All those kids in clinical experiences need supervision (and those supervisors need to be experienced educators and trained as supervisors), and no one has figured out a good way to pay for that. And those supervisors need coordination. Let me know when you’ve found a university that’s willing to pay faculty-level salaries for someone supervising teachers. That’s not a teacher ed issue, that’s a larger university issue. And in these days of tight K-12 budgets, you’re not getting the money from there. But I digress…

  2. I have to agree with marktropolis here. There is nothing new about the NCATE approach. AACTE has been advocating for it, too–and for a long time, often to deaf ears. People have so vilified NCATE and AACTE that they seem genuinely surprised when those organizations state their long-held positions.

    This reminds me of the commentators who touted Randi Weingarten’s “bold about face” on national standards, ignoring AFT’s decades-old position on the subject.

  3. Has no one out there ever read Lortie’s Schoolteacher? Or George Counts on Schools? There is some very illogical thinking going on that more clinical experience will help change the way teachers teach. With whom will pre-service teachers be doing this clinical experience? The very teachers who are now blamed for the current situation. Lortie points out that conservatism (as in maintaining the status quo) is built into the very nature of our education system. Those who we train as teachers are products of the system we want them to change. And, for the most part, this system has worked well for them, so why should they want to change it?

    Do you really believe that there are enough teachers out there who practice what research tells us is good teaching to mentor all of the next generation of teachers? And how can we possibly train pre-teachers to teach using best practice and research based strategies when all the teachers that are out there can do is test prep, because that is all that their principals will let them do because that is what the politicians and unfortunately even our President think they should do.

    Do I sound frustrated? You bet. We work very hard to help our pre-teachers understand that creating a safe environment, challenging their students to think, and teaching them to responsible for themselves (both our teacher candidates and their students) is good practice. Then they go into classrooms to observe and to teach and hear teachers yelling, see students being asked to do work they are not ready for and taking tests that go on for hours and hours and hours. Often these are ELL students who are taking the tests in English–though they are not yet speaking or reading in English.

    So it doesn’t really matter how long this clinical idea has been hanging around, or who espouses what, it is not the solution to the problem. I do not even believe we have correctly defined the problem–we just keep blaming–first the kids, then the parents, then the el ed teachers, then the secondary ed teachers, now we have moved to blaming the colleges of education. Until we define the problems correctly, the current solutions cannot work.

  4. Why do we expect the colleges deal with “practicum” at all? If the schools want better teachers, then let THEM provide the mentoring necessary to turn a raw grad into a real teacher. This is what happens in most every other industry. Why should teaching work otherwise? In what other profession does someone get hired right out of college and get thrown to the wolves — not many.

    Let the schools hire who they want and have them do what is necessary to make good teachers out of former college students. If this means two people in a classroom for a while, or some other cooperative development process for new teachers, all the better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.