Teacher Prep Programs Not Created Equal

I just read Kevin’s post about Jack Markell’s engagement to deliver a keynote speech today in the nation’s capital, at the launching of Teachstrong by the Center for American Progress.  Something doesn’t fit. Given the recent departure of the great Mark Murphy, a growing disatisfaction with DEDoE and the State Board of Education, the veto of the opt out bill, the Priority Schools debacle (Where IS that promised money, anyway?), and the state’s looming budget shortfall, why would Jack Markell be of interest to anyone at a national level?  Where is the logic in that?

The Teacher Compensation Plan that Markell has been pushing is all over this. Or is  it the reverse? Afterall, Jack surely isn’t planning on retirement after 2016, and has mastered the art of pleasing those who can do for him. See for yourself how his plan is aligned to Teachstrong.

The Center for American Progress‘s press release is as follows:(boldface mine)

In order to ensure that all students are taught by excellent teachers, leaders must reimagine the systems and structure of the teacher career continuum. Yet the United States has never made a serious commitment to modernizing, elevating, and professionalizing the teaching pathway. This Tuesday, November 10, will mark the kickoff of the TeachStrong campaign, a diverse and powerful coalition of 40 education organizations that have come together to call on the nation’s leaders to make modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy priority in 2016 and beyond.

The TeachStrong launch event will feature Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) and Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE), who will deliver keynote addresses on their efforts to elevate teaching in their states. An all-star panel of education leaders will discuss the path forward around this critical issue.

Well, THANK YOU, Center for American Progress for making it your goal to “professionalize” teaching. There is an awful lot packed into that statement. And it isn’t pretty.  Lord knows we haven’t been treated like professionals for quite some time. Now we know why.  We aren’t professionals, fellow teachers, and the Center for American progress is going to help us get there.

On the Teachstrong website I found the following:

Our students are falling behind internationally. In an effort to catch up, we are asking more from our teachers than ever before. Yet we continue to provide our teachers with inadequate preparation, training, and pay.

Teacher preparation programs lack rigor and selectivity. Two-thirds of teacher preparation programs accept more candidates than they reject, and one-quarter accept almost every candidate who applies. Education majors are 50 percent more likely to graduate with honors than undergraduates in other majors.

Only five percent of teacher preparation programs in this country include the basic components of a quality student teaching experience

More of the familiar “if only we could fix the teachers” then all would be well with America’s international standing in education. That’s certainly much easier than fixing families and poverty. I’ll give you that.  But I have a few thoughts on teacher preparedness and the teacher education programs from which they come. A graduate of the University of Delaware, every aspect of my teacherprep program was excellent – but for one. A big one. I graduated knowing that I hadn’t a clue how to teach beginning reading. Not a clue. And I was in the Elementary Ed program. I felt confident and ready to teach every other subject. Even pretty secure with reading in the content areas.  Additionally, my methods and student teaching placements played an integral role in my readiness. They, in particular, were responsible for my abiltiy to manage a classroom.

I included this information in my written evaluation of the program, and hope that someone read it and gave it some consideration. Far more learning has occurred in the years I have spent in the classroom, but UD gave me a clear advantage. I also completed my master’s degree at UD. I needed a GRE score to get in, and I did my own research, then wrote and defended a thesis. The process was brutal, but the benefits tremendous.

. This is what I have observed, and I am sure to step on some toes. Graduates of teacher programs that do not include student teaching are the most disadvantaged in classroom management,  teaching strategies, and understanding how  learning takes place, and so, often the weak link in a team. Yet these are state approved programs. For profit colleges do not appear to be at all selective- except that if  you apply, you are selected. Assignments are low level, even for graduate classes. This, I have seen first hand. A friend who received a masters degree at this for profit university calls it “Crackerjack College”.

I have had the opportunity to be a cooperating teacher (for student teachers and methods students) for two local universites and had one student from a local for profit university in my room for a few weeks placement. I never really figured out why she was there. I observed a significant difference in students’ readiness for their placement, motivation, and professionalism. In two instances I refused to sign off on the placements. In one case, the student teaching supervisor showed up one day – the last – of placement, and in the other, I never  saw or heard from the supervising teacher until the placement had concluded. I have a problem with that. And the root of that problem is the particular state approved teacher prep program.

One factor that has to be considered is the quality and commitment of the pre-service teacher. You can’t get more out of a program than you give. No matter where you are.

There are weak links in the state’s teacher ed programs, but those in power don’t step on each other’s toes. It’s much easier to blame the teachers. Squash them.

By the way, not one of the excellent student teachers I sponsored had any desire to stay in Delaware.

Now, fix that, Jack!

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4 thoughts on “Teacher Prep Programs Not Created Equal”

  1. I got as far as “our students are falling behind internationally.” False. Our students per economic strata are number one in every economic percentile internationally.

    If you test the smartest “Shanghai’d students” whose parents hire $40,000 tutors for their children and compare their scores to Warner, you are going to get a large dichotomy in scores. If you also gave each of Warner’s kids a $40,000 tutor like those Shainghai’d students had, you would see closer correlation. But when you compare the lowest Chinese with Warner’s students, there is no comparison….The vast majority of Chinese peasants are illiterate.

    All Corporate reform is based on this lie. We need to publicly laugh education reformers down to their proper place, each and every time this is brought up. It is simply not true. We have the best education system in the world because we educate ALL children, regardless of income. Not just our Wilmington Charter ones… …..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. But this kind of propaganda works. Apparently US SAT scores have hit a low, but more students- in Delaware ALL- are taking the test.
      We may not concur with Teachstrong’s claims, but they will be a force in reform.
      My point is that Markell and company are chasing an enemy they have created, and are refusing to acknowledge obvious issues.

      Liked by 1 person

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