Holmes Group Hit for Offering 'Simplistic' Solutions
A draft report prepared for a major higher-education group sharply criticizes the reform platform of the Holmes group--a consortium of 39 education deans from some of the nation's leading research universities--for proposing "simplistic" answers to the complex problems teacher educators now face.
In a related development, several Holmes group members were to meet this week in Chicago to air their own concerns regarding some of the group's proposals, particularly the plank that would require consortium members to abandon undergraduate education programs.
The consortium members agreed at a meeting last month that all institutions choosing to adopt the group's standards will be expected to phase out their undergraduate programs in education over the next five years.
Last June, the group approved a preliminary set of standards that would require all prospective "career" teachers to major in an academic subject area rather than education and complete a post-baccalaureate program leading to a master's degree and a provisional certificate.
'Dangerous and Formidable'
In a preliminary draft of a paper prepared for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and presented at two different sessions during its recent annual meeting at Bal Harbour, Fla., John E. King, a visiting education professor at the University of South Carolina and a former president of Emporia State Univeristy in Kansas, 4called the Holmes group reform platform "dangerous and formidable."
It is dangerous, Mr. King said, because it "would hamper rather than support and assist public and private colleges now producing 80 percent of the teachers for the country."
In addition, Mr. King asserted that the Holmes group's proposals ignore many of the root causes of poor morale and ineffectiveness among the nation's teachers and schools, and offer simplistic answers to the complex questions faced by teacher-education institutions.
He further argued that the proposals would place the control of teacher education in the hands of the universities that have shown the least support and concern for it during the past 25 years and where teaching is often "considered an invidious career choice."
In an interview last week, Mr. King emphasized that his paper was a preliminary draft. He said he planned to look closely at the Holmes group's final report, scheduled to be released in January, and to conduct more research himself before submitting his final report to aascu next March.
Not the First Criticism
Mr. King's charges are not the first leveled at the Holmes group. In October, the consortium drew criticism from Fredrick D. Gideonse, dean of the college of education at the University of of Cincinnati and a candidate for the presidency of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
In a letter to the aacte membership, Mr. Gideonse charged that theway the group has proceeded has "created divisiveness within the profession."
According to Harold Delaney, aascu's vice president, officials of the 368-member organization asked Mr. King to prepare the report so officials would have a clearer idea of the group's proposals, since "no [aascu-member] institutions were involved in the deliberations of the Holmes group."
"We felt we needed a critical analysis of what the Holmes group says it is going to do, to make sure we understand what impact their work will have on our institutions, which produce about 55 percent of the teachers certified every year," Mr. Delaney said. "There is concern that the group will be likely to ignore the rolls of the institutions that are represented by aascu"
'Downgraders of Teaching'
Because its members "are downgraders of the teaching profession and of teacher education as it currently exists," the Holmes group could further erode confidence in the teaching profession, Mr. King argued in the draft.
In addition, he asserted that "an even greater national shortage of teachers than is already predicted might occur if the 365 aascu-member institutions and private four-year colleges are not encouraged to recruit and train teachers through their current modes."
Mr. King said that while the "tone and approach" of Holmes group's literature decries present conditions in the public schools and teacher education in general, "very few data references were used" to support its claims.
"Considering the fact that the deans involved purport to represent 'research-oriented institutions,' one would have expected some reference to research findings in the proposals" the group presented to foundations and the U.S. Education Department "in its effort to obtain funding," Mr. King wrote.
But John R. Palmer, dean of the school of education at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a Holmes-group steering committee member, said last week that Mr. King's comments "do not reflect any understanding of the discussions that we have been holding."
"I don't know how he, not being involved in the discussions, would really know very much about them," Mr. Palmer said.
He insisted that "research and lots of experience" form the basis for the group's proposal and noted that the group speaks only for those involved.
Few details about the Chicago meeting of education deans, slated for Dec. 17, were available last week.
Two deans who planned to attend confirmed that it would take place and that concerns over some of the Holmes group's proposals--particularly the one that would require participating institutions to phase out their undergraduate degree programs--would be discussed. They declined to say, however, that the meeting was called solely for that purpose.