The Blue Ribbon Panel on teacher Accreditation is recommending that new teachers spend less time in university classes
and more time in k-12 classrooms to get more “clinical” training, like
in the medical profession. What the panel neglects to acknowledge is
that doctors spend years in medical school before they start their
clinical training so that they have some understanding of what to look
for in their patients and how to treat it. It seems self-evident that
more classroom practice (i.e., observing and critiquing other teachers
and student teaching) should be beneficial to teachers in training.
However, if this comes at the expense of sufficient training in
curriculum and content, educational philosophies, pedagogy and history,
new teachers will lack a theoretical basis for their clinical practice.
They will lack a basis for evaluating curricula and education policies
and will simply become uncritical automatons that go through the motions
of “good” teaching.
According to the panel, “school districts will have a more significant role in designing and
implementing teacher education programs, selecting candidates for
placement in their schools, and assessing candidate performance and
progress.” As a result, districts and individual schools will be forced
to compete with each other to create the most “exciting” or “state of
the art” “clinical” programs to attract new teachers, taking resources
away from existing programs and classroom instruction. Academic freedom
and creativity may also suffer, as new teachers will be much more easily
molded to the desires of local school districts, thus stifling
innovation and dissent. It will also result in bloated district
For years there has been a growing cry to hold teachers accountable for
their students’ test scores, completely disregarding the well-documented
socioeconomic factors that have the greatest influence on student
achievement. Now they want to extend this blame to both student teachers
and their education schools and professors. The
panel recommends that all programs use “data-driven accountability
based on measures of candidate performance and student achievement,
including gains in standardized test scores.” While this does not go
quite as far as Reed Lyon had hoped when he argued that we should blow up the teacher colleges,
it does imply that teacher training colleges will be punished if k-12
students fail their standardized tests. One likely result will be a
dearth of teacher training schools, as more and more lose accreditation.
The vacuum will likely be filled by private for-profit schools such as American College of Education
(started by Bush cronies Reid Lyon, Rod Paige and Randy Best). There
will also be a dearth of qualified teachers as candidates who fail to
bring up test scores will fail to be certificated.
The panel makes many other dubious recommendations. For example, they “urge
states, institutions, and school districts to explore alternative
funding models, including those used in medicine to fuse funds for
patient care and the training of residents in teaching hospitals.”
Schools are already running on bare bones budgets. Without
extraordinarily large increases in school funding, this recommendation
will result in money being reallocated from teacher compensation and
classroom instruction to teacher training programs.
Eight states—California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio,
Oregon and Tennessee—have already signed letters of intent to implement
the new agenda. The two biggest
teachers unions helped draft these proposals. They have accepted the sky
is falling hysteria of the pundits and politicians and hope to quell
the attacks on the teaching profession by collaborating with the bosses.
Rather than supporting the teaching profession and their members with
sane, workable improvements to teacher training and evaluation, the
unions are selling out their members and their constituents, the
students. In the end, the attacks on teachers will continue, as will the
demands for more accountability, merit pay, charter schools and
evaluations based on student test scores.