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Topic: Less training, more teachers
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Less training, more teachers
Posted: Aug 24, 2000 1:58 PM
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From the New York Times on the Web, Thursday, August 24, 2000
Less Training, More Teachers: New Math for Staffing Classes

By Kate Zernike

BOSTON, Aug. 19 -- A growing number of states and school districts
are short-circuiting the usual route to teacher certification with
their own crash courses that put new teachers in the classroom after
as little as three weeks.

Officials say they are driven by a severe teacher shortage, the
demands of higher standards and, increasingly, concerns that
traditional teacher education programs are failing and deterring
talented candidates from entering the profession.

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."

States have created other quick credentialing programs as emergency
responses to teacher shortages. But the new programs emerge from
concerns as much about quality as quantity. In some cases, policy
makers express near hostility to teacher education schools and note
that the best private schools do not require teacher certification.

The new shortcuts, the officials say, attract better candidates and
those who are traditionally hard to recruit: men, scientists, members
of minorities, those willing to teach in middle schools and high

The states of Kentucky, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and the cities
of Baton Rouge, La.; Kansas City, Mo.; Kansas City, Kan.; Los Angeles
and New York City have all recently started their own
teacher-training programs, and legislatures in other states are
considering bills that would allow them to do the same.

Schools of education have long had a reputation as the least rigorous
branch of undergraduate education, with lower admissions standards
and fewer graduation requirements than other professional schools.
Critics say the courses spend too much time on pedagogy and not
enough on content -- that is, too much on how to teach without enough
on what to teach. A math major, for example, would be required to
take more math courses than a math education major, whose course load
might include sociology of education or theory of curriculum design.

Courses in methods of teaching might be useful for those who want to
teach in elementary schools, critics say, where the focus is on
teaching students to read and do basic arithmetic. But in the higher
grades, teachers need to know more about the subjects they are
teaching, especially since most states now require students to pass
demanding tests to graduate from high school. "When teachers come
through the classroom," said Michael Lane, a former Teach for America
teacher who is coordinating the Massachusetts program for the Boston
public schools, "a lot of it is trial by fire, and an intelligent
self-reflective person can handle that. Our people are coming through
with the content area expertise. You don't get that in education

Some education theorists, though, say it takes more than content to
be a good teacher.

"People who go through teacher education learn how to look at kids,
how to understand what's going to be appropriate for different kids
at different ages, how people learn and how to instruct a curriculum
that builds on the way people learn well and easily," said Linda
Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University and
the head of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future.
"They learn about what's going to give kids problems and what you do
about those problems."

Michael Allen, who as assistant headmaster at Hyde Park High School
in Boston has overseen the prospective teachers in the shortcut
program this summer, said his own time in education school gave him
invaluable common sense experience. It taught him how to break down
complex math concepts into lessons that students would understand,
Mr. Allen said, how to talk about fractions in a way that would not
make fourth graders' eyes glaze.

Nearly every state has established some alternative route to teacher
certification, allowing those who do not have an undergraduate
education degree to enter the profession. The first to do so, New
Jersey, has trained almost 10,000 teachers over the past 15 years in
a yearlong program run by local school districts. But most of those
programs, like a longstanding one in Connecticut, have required
prospective teachers -- anyone from a recent college graduate to a
physicist with 15 years in industry -- to complete a heavy load of
courses at schools of education at nights or on weekends.

Those options failed to attract significant numbers, education
officials said, because the path to teaching still seemed cumbersome,
many of the courses mind-numbing.

"I don't know whether I would have found the same level of
professionalism, energy and maturity in a regular education school,"
said Diane Brancazio, a mechanical engineer who is training in the
Massachusetts Institute for New Teachers, or MINT, this summer.

Another new MINT teacher, Kira Sherwood, taught in a private school
where a teacher who had gone to education school, she said, told her,
" 'Thank God, they didn't get you.' "

"He really felt it had done more harm than good," said Ms. Sherwood,
who will teach in Boston this fall.

Teacher education programs in Massachusetts suffered a harsh blow to
their reputation when 59 percent of prospective teachers failed a
basic test for certification when it was first given two years ago.
MINT was born out of that debacle. While it first enrolled only elite
students who had won $20,000 signing bonuses, the state found that so
many people were interested in a faster route to certification that
it opened the program up to others, including some willing to pay to
attend the summer institute.

"This will become a major source of classroom teachers for
Massachusetts schools, and a source of competition with the schools
of education," said Alan Safran, deputy commissioner of education for
the state, where officials say MINT will train 1,000 teachers a year
by 2003. "We are not shy about that, because competition will improve
both the higher ed programs and the MINT program."

In most cases, the prospective teachers teach summer school in the
morning, and attend class into the evening. There, they give
demonstration lessons that are critiqued by other candidates, ask
questions about problems they had in class, and discuss readings on
theories about effective schools. At the end of the candidates' first
year in the classroom, the principal of the school or a state
official decides whether they have earned full certification.

"The larger issue is that this kind of power ought to be at the
school level, the principals ought to be deciding who teaches well
and who doesn't," said Gary Huggins, executive director of the
Education Leaders Council, a group of eight aggressively
reform-minded state education leaders, several of whom are looking to
start state teacher education programs. "With all the talk you hear
about shortages to be or shortages that exist, it's exactly the wrong
time to cut off the market with overregulation that's going to block
people who have no incentive to go into teaching."

The commission on teaching says, however, that its research shows
that those who go through longer programs in education schools --
five years in all -- stay in the profession longer.

"You end up fooling the public that you've actually solved the
teaching crisis, when in fact you've only exacerbated it," said
Barnett Berry, director of state policy and partnership for the
commission. "Those folks are far, far more likely to leave the
classroom, and in a hurry, creating a constant revolving door for
inexperienced teachers who are, according to the evidence, ending up
in front of the kids who most need the best teachers."

To supporters of the new programs, length of time in the classroom is
just one more element of what defines a good teacher that should be
open to change.

"We've got to stop saying that this person needs to be here 30 years
to make it a success," said Mr. Huggins, at the Education Leaders
Council. "We should take advantage of people who say, 'I'd love to do
this for four or five years and I have the heart and the ability,'
and see that as a success, too."

The states and districts say they will rely more heavily on tests --
for teacher certification, and student performance -- to judge
whether the new teachers succeed. But in states that are in the
second year of the new programs, officials say principals are calling
for more of the new recruits, which suggests they like the quality
they are seeing.

Texas used to allow teachers to enter through the shortcut method
only in districts where there was a shortage of teachers, but now
allows them in any district. Pennsylvania also approved the program
despite a glut of teacher education school candidates.

In Pennsylvania, the teachers union is suing to block the program.
But in other states, the unions welcome the programs as soon as they
see that the new recruits join their ranks.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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