Letters to the Editor
David G. Imig Executive Director American Association of Colleges For Teacher Education Washington
We have read with some dismay Thomas Toch's article "For Teachers of Teachers: A Crisis of Quality" (Education Week, Sept 14). We are extremely concerned over both the one-sided presentation of opinions, and the selection of quotes that the reporter has offered. While the first paragraphs of the article set a critical but realistic tone, they in no way justify the use of the title "... A Crisis of Quality."
The story cites the closing of a number of teacher-education programs--while neglecting to indicate that an equally small number of institutions have added teacher education to their curriculum in recent years. It also discusses the qualitative issues facing teacher education as if they are problems unique to schools of education. Quality is an all-university problem; teacher-education students spend significantly more time in arts and science courses than in professional education. For this reason the demand for minimal competency examinations also reflects not only on teacher education, but on the university as a whole. The competencies being tested are basic literacy and computational skills derived through the general education curriculum provided by other parts of the university.
When the article cites New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Florida as states where significant reform in teacher education is taking place, it fails to mention the fact that in all of these states, teacher educators and others within schools of education have been active proponents. In the state of Oklahoma a group of deans of education largely initiated and influenced the passage of legislation that culminated in the program changes.
The article also fails to acknowledge the host of institutions that have invested significantly in the reform of their own programs. These reforms have come from within the institutions and have been achieved at enormous cost to the individuals leading the challenge. The universities of Kansas, Florida, and Ohio State are only three such institutions initiating major reforms.
Throughout the article there are non sequiturs that demand amplification.
For instance, in a paragraph in mid-story your reporter cites National Education Association statistics showing there has been a decline in the enrollments of schools of education; his next sentence notes that as academic rigor has declined, so has the interest of better students. There is nothing to document any decline in academic rigor in teacher-preparation programs; certainly none can be deduced from a simple enrollment figure.
The use of the Helen Hartle, Tom Collins, and J. Arthur Taylor quotes are misleading and fail to represent the majority of the teachers of teachers: 90 percent of school, college, and department of education faculty have had significant years of experience in K-12 schools. It is often the case that these faculty earned their advanced degrees while serving as exemplary classroom teachers. Ms. Hartle's statements fail to recognize that more and more education faculty are spending increasing periods of time in academic or K-12 classrooms.
In one major Southern university, for instance, more than 60 percent of the education faculty will spend at least one full week in elementary or secondary classrooms during each 13-week semester to avoid the hazards of isolation.
These efforts are being made despite the fact that traditional academic-reward systems and formula-driven funding for schools, colleges, and departments of education provide significant disincentives for such activities.
Schools of education throughout the nation are endeavoring to provide highly competent, qualified, and skilled teachers thoroughly grounded in academics, pedagogy, and research. Teacher education must ask not the either/or question of research and pedagogy, but the question of how to take all that we know about academic training, classroom management, learning styles, children's behavior, the structure of language, and curriculum content and convey that to prospective teachers in a limited amount of time within the total university program.
Schools of education have not lost sight of their mission--they continue to be dedicated to the principle of providing the highest quality teachers and administrators for this nation's schools.
Loretta K. Andrews Baltimore, Md.
You quote James Coleman as saying, "People who do not have a choice, because of income and racial limitations, ought to have the same choices as people who have money" (Sept. 7). This is a very appealing idea.
If, however, private schools are to be permitted to charge students beyond what would be provided by vouchers, tuition tax rebates, or any other form of goverment aid, there is no way that such aid would give all people the same choices as people who "have money." Coleman and others who support such aid have not spoken to this fact.
After all of his years involved with public education, is Coleman so nave? Or is he intellectually dishonest?