Published Online:

Educators Seek Solutions to 'Crises' in Teachers

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

New Haven, Conn--In what may be an indication of how serious the concern over the "crisis of quality" within the nation's teaching profession has become, the chief state school officers of 38 states, in an unprecedented move, met late last month at Yale University with the presidents of more than 40 of the nation's leading colleges and universities to discuss ways they can cooperate to get more academically able people into teaching while keeping the best of those who are already in the profession.

The purposes of the meeting, conference participants said, were to begin to break down the "tremendous prejudice against public-school teaching" that exists on many college campuses, to share ideas about successful school-college collaborations, and to encourage dialogue between state education officials and the leaders of the nation's institutions of higher education.

Expressed throughout the conference discussions was the view that if teacher training is to be improved and if more able students are to be attracted to the teaching profession, colleges and universities must commit more than just their education schools to the task. Many conference participants, especially university presidents, asserted that too many education programs are undistinguished.

Prestige, Power, Pay, Preparation

The participants agreed, however, that "a climate now exists" to mount a broad national attack on the pervasive problems of the "prestige, power, pay, and preparation" of America's schoolteachers.

The unusual conference was sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Yale, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Though the participants did not directly confront the problems of power and pay, they did discuss the need for innovative programs to provide incentives to entice good students into teaching and to retain the best of those now teaching.

They also exchanged information about programs that they said they believed would help improve school curricula and encourage "the intellectual renewal" of teachers.

"The fact that the nation's leading educators from schools and colleges met at Yale, an academic jewel box, to discuss specificinued on Page X

Educators at Yale Forum Explore Solutions to 'Crisis' in Teaching


Continued from Page 1


ways to resolve problems within the teaching profession is a strong indication that the climate is ready for improvement," said Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation and a former U.S. commissioner of education.

"The quality of education in this nation is inextricably tied to the quality of teaching," Mr. Boyer asserted. "[But] today, the teaching profession is imperiled--rewards are few, morale is low, the best teachers are bailing out, and the supply of good instructors is drying up."

A. Bartlett Giamatti, president of Yale University, echoed that message. "We face today a crisis in public education in America, particularly in our urban high schools. The central features of that crisis are the problems our teachers themselves face daily in classrooms across America."

Mr. Boyer and other educators said that schools and colleges must work together to develop "mutually beneficial" programs that will help:

Recruit talented college students into teaching;

Link school teachers with college professors in their disciplines to develop uniform, up-to-date school curricula, with courses that mesh in logical sequence;

Provide rewards and incentives to keep good teachers in the profession;

Retrain teachers to teach in disciplines where there are critical shortages;

Tell students early what skills and competencies they will need for success in college or in careers; and

Strengthen education during the first years of schooling.

Efforts Inhibited in the Past

Such collaborative efforts have been inhibited in the past by the difference between the intellectual approach of academe, which seeks to advance the academic disciplines, and that of schools, which seek to advance the development of individual students, according to the Rev. William J. Sullivan, president of Seattle University.

Father Sullivan cited "traditional teaching divisions" between elementary schools, high schools, and colleges, as well as "industrial-modeled unionism" and the "financial self-interest of colleges and schools" as other inhibiting factors.

"We have constantly asked ourselves how cooperative programs will affect the finances of the institutions we represent. Our concern for [that] has undermined educational ideals," he said.

"It's an issue of resource allocation. For so long, we have seen ourselves as competitors for funds," said Steven S. Kaagan, commissioner of education in Vermont.

"All too often, efforts to build collaboration are not built into financing. As a result, programs become catch-as-catch-can, marginal, and bureacratic," according to Mr. Boyer. Moreover, he said, programs have failed in the past because "those who devoted their time and talents were not rewarded for participation."

There are a lot of "boulders to be dislodged" in establishing collaborative programs, the conference participants agreed, but they emphasized that if colleges and schools focus on their common task--to foster excellence in teaching, learning, and curriculum--and not on the difficulties of collaboration--successful long-term programs can be established.

"Special Report"

Evidence that such programs exist was furnished for conference participants by the Carnegie Foundation in the form of a "special report"--School and College: Partnerships in Education--prepared by Gene Maeroff, an education writer for The New York Times and the author of the recent book, Don't Blame the Kids. The report, released at the Yale gathering, is based on a nationwide survey by Mr. Maeroff of such partnerships; it is to be the first of a series of reports on issues of concern related to the foundation's ongoing research efforts, Mr. Boyer said.

"Collaboration is as vital to higher education as to precollege, since the students in college reflect the quality of education in the elementary and secondary schools," said Mark R. Shedd, former commissioner of education in Connecticut.

Educators at the Yale conference generally agreed that although it is difficult to make teaching more attractive without raising salaries, some effective collaborative programs could help.

Such programs could include:

Guaranteeing employment within a school system for students who enter teacher-training programs. The University of Southern Florida has worked out such an arrangement with school districts, according to Barbara W. Newell, chancellor of the State University of Florida system. (See Education Week Oct. 5, 1981.)

Offering bright liberal-arts-college graduates who agree to teach for a number of years incentives, such as an extra year's pay or full tuition for graduate work, which would allow them to retrain themselves for new careers.

Establishing a "loan-forgiveness" program that would allow students to borrow during their college years and be forgiven all or part of their debt if they teach for certain periods. Several states have initiated such progams to encourage more students to become mathathematics and science teachers.

Providing college scholarships to the sons and daughters of long-term teachers--a controversial proposal that higher-education leaders said was not likely to be implemented.

Lack of 'Teacher Turnover'

Many conference participants noted that the lack of "teacher turnover" is hampering efforts to attract new talent into the profession. And they stressed that improvements in inservice training for those teachers already in the schools must be a priority.

"We anticipate only a 2-percent turnover," said Floretta D. McKenzie, superintendent of schools in the District of Columbia. And that is important, she said, in light of the fact that "too many teachers are teaching the way [teachers taught] 100 years ago."

In New York schools, there will be a turnover of less than 2 percent, according to Gordon M. Ambach, New York Commissioner of Education and president of the State University of New York.

James R. Vivian, director of the Yale-New Haven Teachers' Institute, said the problem is a national one. "With the declining enrollment of high-school students, which will continue through the 1980's, and in spite of decreased class size, the turnover of our more than two million school teachers has decreased from 8 to 6 percent," he noted. "The secondary education of a generation of our young people will be mainly in the hands of individuals already teaching."

The New Haven teaching institute has brought 40 percent of the city's humanities and science teachers to campus to participate in curriculum-development seminars with Yale faculty members. (See Education Week, Sept. 14, 1981.)

Scholars who led those seminars told conference participants that there was significant evidence available to show that the institute helped improve the curricula in the schools; gave teachers a forum to air their frustrations; and fostered a close collegial relationship between professors and teachers that continues long after the seminars. They added that the seminars provided faculty members with a useful look at the education that is taking place in the schools, keeping them up to date with the aptitudes, interests, and training of the high-school students they might one day teach.

The Yale program, like others being established nationwide, does not set out to "solve the problems of the city or the nation," said Mr. Giamatti, noting that the limited scope of the program is part of the reason for its effectiveness.

"If you try to extend yourself too far, you dilute what you can accomplish," Mr. Giamatti said.

Educators at the conference expressed concern that the status of the teaching profession is hurt by changes occurring in academe: the abandonment by institutions of their departments of education and the transformation of traditional state teachers' colleges into comprehensive institutions.

I. Michael Heyman, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, asserted that universities must commit their entire faculty to the training of teachers, rather than leave the task to schools of education, which, he said, often offer undistinguished programs. Mr. Heyman's institution has undertaken such a reform of its education programs. (See Education Week, Jan. 26, 1982.)

Many education schools and teacher-training programs are starting to "find the balance" between academic disciplines and methodology, though they once focused far too much on teaching pedagogical skills, said John Thomas, chancellor of Appalachian State University, which grants 450 baccalaureate degrees and 300 master's degrees in education per year.

Teacher-Preparation Programs

Some chief state school officers argued that money to improve teacher-preparation programs too often goes directly to higher-education institutions to do with as they please with no consultation with the school systems served by the programs.

"Revisions in teacher-preparation programs," said Carolyn Warner, Arizona's chief state school officer, "should be made with the approval of the state department of education. If they come up with a workable plan, the department can change certification requirements so that all colleges in the state can follow the improved program." She added that such collaboration had been successful in her state.

"The irony is that we demand excellence in athletics, in art, in consumer durables, and the like, while we seem to fear it in relation to intellectual competence," said Harold T. Shapiro, president of the University of Michigan.

"We have told a generation of students that intellectual achievement is unrelated to their progress through our school systems. Social adjustment, individual realization, group consciousness, and the like are currently valued at least as highly as achievement is," Mr. Shapiro said. "We have, in the end, exploited our students and fooled ourselves."

Web Only

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login |  Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Commented