partial quote: The new programs run counter to the years of course work and practice under which teachers have long been trained. In essence, they adopt the model created by Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that a decade ago bucked the education establishment by putting fresh graduates of the nation's top colleges into classrooms after brief summer training. And they have run into the same criticism among educators who say the programs gamble with the future of the poorest and most vulnerable students by giving them teachers who lack the necessary training. The new programs are forcing a struggle over fundamental questions about what makes a good teacher, and how much of that can be taught.
The timing is both fortuitous and risky. With retirements, growing enrollments and reductions in class size, the nation's public schools will have to hire 2.5 million teachers over the next decade, about the same number of teachers now working (2.8 million). With educational options like vouchers and charter schools growing nationally, officials say there is also an increased willingness to experiment with teacher education. "The teacher education people just can't escape the idea that the college or university experience is what it takes for teachers to be successful," said Clayton Wilcox, deputy superintendent for hiring in the East Baton Rouge Parish school district, which includes the Louisiana capital. "We think we can do it better, and faster."