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Published in Print: January 26, 2000, as Florida Proposes Shakeup Of Teacher Education Programs

Florida Proposes Shakeup Of Teacher Education Programs

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Citing evidence that many of Florida's novice teachers feel ill-prepared for their jobs, Sunshine State officials are proposing a wide range of new requirements for the state's schools of education.

The proposed changes in the way the state approves teacher- preparation programs follow months of work by a special committee named last year by state Commissioner of Education Tom Gallagher. The schools chief last week released the panel's 16-page final report, which was to be presented to the state school board for possible approval this week.

For More Information

Download the Teacher Preparation Program Committee report from the Florida Department of Education. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

The document spells out in detail a "core curriculum" for prospective teachers to ensure that they have a solid background in both the liberal arts and in pedagogy. Many of the proposals also aim to make the training more practical. The report suggests, for example, that methods courses do more to place teaching candidates in actual K-12 classrooms, and that student-teaching stints be extended to an entire year, instead of the traditional two to three months.

Explaining the need for the changes, Mr. Gallagher pointed to the results of a new state-sponsored survey of first-year teachers in Florida. About 45 percent said they were inadequately prepared to teach to the state's academic standards for students, and 75 percent reported they were at best only minimally prepared to assess student progress.

If the state board adopts the report this week, the education department plans to hold meetings throughout Florida later this month to gather comments on the rule changes. Based on the initial reaction to the recommendations, plenty of education groups will be putting in their 2 cents.

"It's a little bit premature to lay out what all the concerns are, when we don't know all the details," said Robert C. Clark, the acting dean of Florida State University's college of education. "But one of our concerns is that by being so prescriptive, they may actually limit the number of hours that, say, a math major can take in math. ... They've pretty much covered all the time available in an undergraduate program."

Process or Product?

The proposals detail—down to the number of college credit hours—the amount of coursework prospective teachers would need in each subject area. All candidates would have to complete 15 hours in social studies, 12 in science, and nine in mathematics. Those preparing to work in elementary schools would also have to take 12 hours in how to teach reading.

"Certainly, we applaud the goals that they seem to be working toward," said Arthur E. Wise, the president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. "On the other hand, in the past, regulating teacher preparation through the prescription of courses has not been found to be an effective strategy, and the preponderance of professional opinion is that colleges of education—like schools—should be held accountable for their outcomes."

But Mr. Gallagher said he believes such an approach would take too much time to yield results. "Right now, we need some major changes in outcomes, and rather than have our 29 colleges of education all trying to figure out ways to do it, it would be better if they all did the same things," he said.

Teachers' groups, meanwhile, argued that the proposals would exacerbate hiring difficulties unless teacher pay is raised. Said David Clark, a spokesman for the Florida Teaching Profession-National Education Association: "You can't say you want higher standards and for people to jump through more hoops to enter the field, while not paying a professional wage."

The proposals released last week included provisions for teacher bonuses—of unspecified amounts—for graduates of education schools that adhered to the new requirements.

Vol. 19, Issue 20, Page 18

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