Calif. Seeks Ways To Improve Teacher Training
Sacramento, Calif--The master-plan committee of the California State Board of Education, having won the full board's approval of its model high-school graduation requirements, has now turned its attention to ''excellence in professional education."
The move represents the next step in the implementation of California's new school-reform law, which requires periodic continuing education for future teachers--a minimum of 150 hours every five years--but establishes no requirement for current teachers.
At a daylong forum late last month to begin exploring reforms in preparation and continuing education for teachers, a Stanford University education professor told the panel that teachers do not have enough opportunities in most schools to grow as professionals and to develop their skills.
"Schools, by and large, are tired institutions," said Robert Bush. "They are not primarily self-renewing institutions. We spend almost all our time in operating the schools instead of planning, evaluating, thinking how we can make them better." Mr. Bush said teachers generally have to make time to visit and study one another's methods to gain new insights on improving their teaching techniques. Teachers consistently report that they get the most useful help from other teachers, but they are able to do little visiting, perhaps only one or two times a year, he said. He advised the board to make inservice training mandatory and to provide far more time for it.
A master plan is needed, Mr. Bush added, to strengthen the continuity between preservice training in colleges and inservice training from master teachers, particularly during an instructor's first three to five years in the classroom.
A Stanford study of 63 elementary and secondary schools found that teachers have, on average, 3.8 days a year for inservice training, and principals have an average of 7.5 days--"minuscule" amounts, Mr. Bush said. His goal, he said, would be to set aside 10 percent of the work year of teachers and principals for continuing education.
The Stanford study placed teachers in one of five categories according to their willingness to pursue professional development. Those characterized as "omnivores" (5 percent of all teachers) and "active con-sumers" (representing another 20 percent) take inservice training continuously throughout their careers. The largest group--the 50 percent identified as "passive consumers"--need to be persuaded about the value of inservice training. Two smaller groups--the "withdrawn" (15 percent) and the "entrenched" (10 percent)--oppose continuing education.
Mr. Bush said that before beginning the five-year study he believed the decision to undertake inservice training should be left to the individual teacher. "But my data tell me we're missing most of the people," he said. "Now I think the training should be required, but if we do that, we should make it a lot better."