Philanthropies Seek Teacher-Training Models
The Carnegie Corporation of New York has invited four of the country's leading teacher education programs to join a new initiative aimed at reinventing the way colleges and universities prepare teachers to work in the classroom.
Under what's being called the Teachers for a New Era project, each participating institution will receive up to $5 million over the next five years to support several key improvements. Those include increasing involvement in teacher training of both practicing K-12 teachers and faculty members from the arts and sciences, giving teacher-candidates more experience in the classroom, and monitoring graduates once on the job to see how well their students perform.
Although Carnegie serves as both the coordinator of and largest single donor to Teachers for a New Era, the effort also is being underwritten by the Annenberg, Ford, and Rockefeller foundations. After an extensive review of education programs across the country, invitations were offered late last month to Bank Street College of Education in New York City, California State University-Northridge, Michigan State University in East Lansing, and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Daniel Fallon, who oversees education initiatives for Carnegie, says the hope is to produce "exemplars" of high-quality education programs.
"The concept is that in the United States, there are no excellent teacher education programs by consensus," Mr. Fallon said. "I think there are excellent teacher education programs out there, but nobody knows where they are, or we can't agree on where they are. And that's alarming, because we can agree in academic life on where excellent programs are in the arts and sciences and even in other professions."
The venture comes at a time when traditional modes of teacher preparation are under increasing scrutiny. Some states have threatened to pull the plug on education programs in which large numbers of graduates fail their licensing tests, and last year, for the first time, all states were required to submit performance data on their education schools to the federal government.
Showing Their Worth
Though aspiring to influence the whole field of teacher education, Teachers for a New Era is an invitation-only project. The Carnegie Corporation picked the first four institutions based on a highly selective process that began with an examination of data from virtually every teacher-preparation program in the United States, and ultimately included analyses by the RAND Corp. and site visits to a handful of finalists.
Carnegie officials expect to announce two more "invitees" in each of the next two years.
Before receiving any money, those asked to take part must work with the philanthropy to flesh out implementation plans. Participants are expected to make several major changes meant to give teacher-candidates better preparation in both subject matter and in the practicalities of working in the classroom. Programs also must follow their graduates once they enter the workforce, both to provide additional support and to track their effects on student learning.
"We have everybody talking," said Louanne Kennedy, the provost at Cal State-Northridge. "We've made changes in the curriculum. But to take it to the level where we really, on a daily basis, look at our pedagogy, our content, what happens to students on campus and what happens when they go out to the schools, and develop those variables—this is going to very hard."
Still, Ms. Kennedy said, her school is up to the task. The Northridge program—which produces about 1,700 credentialed teachers annually—already involves many faculty members from disciplines outside education in training teachers. Moreover, it has sought to gauge the quality of its graduates by surveying administrators who hire them.
Ms. Kennedy noted that the Carnegie initiative will prompt Northridge to examine other results as well, such as youngsters' test-score gains. "We expect that students will perform at a higher level because they have had teachers from our program," she said. "That is the element of the assessment that is critical in this."
Frank B. Murray, an education professor at the University of Delaware, praised the new initiative. Although many of the changes it is requiring have been called for previously, the large infusion of private money could be enough to ensure that they take place in the targeted institutions, Mr. Murray pointed out. Each participating program is required to match the gift one to one through its own fund- raising.
"This is a significant departure in grant funding for teacher education in terms of the amount of money," said Mr. Murray, the founding president of the fledgling Teacher Education Accreditation Council, in Washington. "We don't see that level of funding for teacher education programs to make changes in themselves.
"This says let's make sure the funds are there to make the changes," he continued, "and so people don't make compromises because they don't have the money. It creates a space where you can't say you can't do something because you don't have funds."
Vol. 21, Issue 30, Page 5