NYT on Ed Schools:
Who Needs Articles Like This?

I am mystified about what, exactly, we're supposed to learn or conclude from Sunday's NYT article, Who Needs Education Schools?

Teacher preparation is a fascinating -- if not entirely new -- issue for many education folks. So it's not hard to get us to read this stuff, and not often that the Times gives it such prominence.

And the article contains some useful statistics and an insight or two on where ed schools are and what they're facing -- especially about the deep and unresolved conflicts between teachers and testing, which underly many school reform failures:
"No Child Left Behind, with its emphasis on standards and hard data, has placed national policy in direct conflict with the prevailing approach of many colleges, where the John Dewey tradition of progressive education holds sway, marked by a deep antipathy toward testing."
But there's nothing really new here -- nothing about what the new Higher Education Act does or doesn't do to improve teacher training programs, nothing beyond the surface about new efforts to revamp teacher prep.

The piece is also all over the place. A program is mentioned here. A teacher or expert is quoted there. The piece veers off into other issues -- retention, unions, mandatory curricula -- and as a result remains superficial.

Please tell me I missed something, and that it's not just cuz the author has a book out.

UPDATE: Jim Horn over at Schools Matter has a very different, but equally critical, take on the NYT piece, observing among other things that most of the experts quoted are "conservative." Take a look. It's probably a stretch to call Kati Haycock a conservative, but, hey, they're calling me one these days, too.


Anonymous Bob said...


Like you I came away from the New York Times story underwhelmed. But one reason the article felt so amorphous is because the field is: as an AERA report noted recently, there is very little evidence about what kind of preparation produces high quality teaching.

I was involved in some of the case studies for Arthur Levine's forthcoming study. One of the things I cam away with was that institutions are in many ways controlled by outside forces--states, accrediting associations--and they have relatively little flexibility. Most of the innovative programs Levine mentions, like Alverno and Stanford, are relatively tiny. Moreover, it struck me that the institutions see little need to change. The signals they get--from states and school districts--are positive. Their graduates pass state exams and get jobs. Are they successful teachers? Very few bother to find out.

As long as we have high turnover in the teacher ranks, the teacher labor market is likely to be a seller's market. Districts will keep hiring teachers from local teachers' colleges, or from Teach for America or some alternative certification program (by the way, many colleges of education, seizing an entrepreneurial moment, now operate alternative route programs), and won't be too selective about quality or put too much pressure on institutions to do a better job preparing teachers. And so colleges of education will continue to do what they've been doing, while every once in a while a book or report lambastes them.

12:58 PM  

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