Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hijacking the message about teacher education

Hijacking the message about teacher education from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette


To comment
On the Web

: Go to comment no later than Friday.
In person
: Attend the DOE public hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Rochester High School or at 10 a.m. Nov. 2 at the Indiana State Library, 315 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis.

State Superintendent Tony Bennett borrowed 30 words from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan this week to build a case for his flawed plan to amend Indiana’s teacher-licensing rules.

But Duncan’s 5,033-word address at Columbia University’s Teachers College was much more than an endorsement of content knowledge over pedagogy.

In fact, the Obama administration’s chief school officer built a strong case against rules that would fill Indiana schools with teachers who know math but don’t know how to teach it.

“In our new era of accountability, it is not enough for a teacher to say, ‘I taught it – but the students didn’t learn it,’ ” Duncan said, calling for changes in the way schools of education train future teachers. His plea was for changes that would not just produce more teachers, but produce teachers who can effectively reach students from poverty, students learning English as a second language, students in inner-city schools and rural communities and students with disabilities.

“Today teachers are asked to achieve significant academic growth for all students at the same time that they instruct students with ever-more diverse needs,” Duncan said.

In spite of Bennett’s effort to spin the message, the rule changes proposed by the Indiana Department of Education are precisely the opposite course Duncan prescribes. Bennett’s proposed rules wouldreduce the number of course hours future teachers would be required to have in a content area, and they would decrease the likelihood that prospective teachers earn hands-on classroom experience before they are hired. Duncan noted the value of that experience.

“I’ve had hundreds of conversations with great young teachers,” Duncan said. “(T)hey say two things about their training in ed school. First, most of them say they did not get the hands-on practical teacher training about managing the classroom that they needed, especially for high-needs students. And second, they say there were not taught how to use data to differentiate and improve instruction and boost student learning.”

Under Indiana’s proposed changes, prospective elementary-school teachers would beprohibited from taking more than 30 credit hours in courses that train them in teaching methods – the very skills they need to differentiate and improve instruction.

Duncan criticized states with licensing exams that “typically measure basic skills and subject matter knowledge with paper-and-pencil tests without any real-world assessment of classroom readiness.”

Under Indiana’s proposed changes, any college graduate passing a certification test administered by the American Board of Certification for Teacher Excellence could become a secondary teacher – no classroom experience required.

Educators have been united in their opposition to the proposal. Complaints have come from classroom teachers, administrators and the state’s schools of education. Chris McGrew, president of the Indiana Council for the Social Studies, said the problem is that the proposed changes were developed without input from the education community. If approved, they would have a particularly worrisome effect on social studies instruction, McGrew said, likely resulting in teachers losing jobs at the secondary level. In elementary schools, where the new rules would require teachers to concentrate on math, science or language arts instruction, social studies would likely lose its place in the curriculum.

“One of the strengths of our elementary school programs is that the teachers are generalists,” McGrew said. ”

Duncan’s message praised the handful of “high-quality alternative certificate” programs, but noted that most teachers will come through universities. He said he’s seeing encouraging improvements from them.

“In the end, I don’t think the ingredients of a good teacher preparation are much of a mystery anymore. Our best programs are coherent, up-to-date, research-based and provide students with subject mastery,” Duncan said. “They have a strong and substantial field-based program in local public schools that drives much of the coursework in classroom management and student learning and prepares students to teach diverse pupils in high-needs settings.”

A hearing is set for Tuesday in Rochester to gather public comment on the teacher-licensing rules.

Bennett wasn’t listening to the secretary of Education; he needs to hear from Hoosiers that lowering teacher standards is not the best course for Indiana students.

Photobucket          yeah!  let's call it what it is!!

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