What If We Brought Education Reform to the Military?
It is in vogue to compare preparation programs for teachers to preparation programs for doctors. Interns in medicine observe surgeons using a scalpel before trying it themselves; interns in education observe seasoned teachers instructing children before trying it themselves. Recently, the accrediting agency for teacher preparation, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, or NCATE, released a "Blue Ribbon Panel Report on Clinical Preparation," thick with analogies between medicine and education. By associating with doctors, perhaps the hope is that the stature of teachers will rise.
In truth, however, the teacher-doctor analogy does not hold, as many beginning teachers today "learn while they earn," meaning they jump into teaching with little or no preparation. No medical school allows first-year interns to perform surgery on real, human subjects. Prospective doctors must have four to seven years of intensive training beyond the bachelor's degree. But no training is expected of prospective teachers beyond the bachelor's degree. In fact, the current trend is to deny pay increases to teachers who earn a master's or doctoral degree, thereby eliminating the possibility that they'll pursue either.
At the same time, school districts across the nation have started counting "local service activities" as professional development, effectively giving lunchroom duty the same weight as enrollment in a graduate program. In many states, districts have the power to decide what constitutes professional development and what doesn't. In Florida, a teacher can simply retake a certification test in lieu of university coursework. Doctors cannot undertake cafeteria work or retake old exams for their professional development. They must attend conferences and learn about the...
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