Hearings Stress Bridge Between Teacher Colleges and Schools

By Cindy Currence — October 03, 1984 6 min read

St Paul--Witnesses who testified here last week at the first of five regional hearings on “Excellence in Teacher Education,” said an improved relationship between schools of education and elementary- and secondary-school educators in the “trenches” will be necessary if the quality of prospective teachers and the instruction they receive is to be raised.

“It is necessary to integrate whatever we are doing in teacher colleges with what is happening in schools, and we need to spend more time building those bridges,” said John R. McClellan, president of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.

In addition to better communication, educators who testified called for improvements in the status of the teaching profession and the education schools, an examination of what the role of teachers will be in the future, and more rigorous entrance standards for teacher-training programs.

A National Commission

C.Peter McGrath, president of the University of Minnesota and chairman of the National Commission on Excellence in Teacher Education, which sponsored the6meetings, said the testimony in the open hearing and the presentations of four teacher educators in a formal session will provide the commission with fuel for its discussions in coming months on how to improve teacher education.

The commission, a panel of teacher educators, legislators, teachers, and school administrators established by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education last March, will make recommendations based on the issues raised and the suggestions offered at the hearings.

The other four hearings are scheduled for Oct. 4-5 in Austin, Tex.; Oct. 15-16 in Atlanta, Ga.; Oct. 18-19 in New York City; and October 22-23 in San Francisco.

A final report from the commission on how to improve the quality of teacher education nationwide is scheduled for release on Feb. 28.

Developing Solutions

Several educators who spoke at the commission’s first open hearing offered solutions to the problem of poor communication between teacher-training institutions and elementary and secondary schools.

Robert W. Gabrick, a high-school teacher representing the Wisconsin Association of Teacher Educators, suggested that education schools develop advisory councils like the one associated with the teacher-training program at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls.

That council, which includes teachers and teacher educators, “provides a sounding board whereby educational problems can be aired openly and honestly within a framework of concern for the profession of education,” Mr. Gabrick said.

Mr. McClellan told the commission that the communication problem could be eased if professors of education would spend more time visiting classrooms in elementary and secondary schools.

“The administrators in this state are curious to know how college professors actually gain their insights into the methods of successful teaching,” he said, since “none of the administrators to whom I have spoken have ever had a methods-course professor visit their school district.”

Education Schools’ Status

Another problem educators raised at the hearing is the low status of teacher-training programs within colleges and universities.

“Teacher-training programs have been spat upon, and the status we accord the program on campus translates into how willing students are to go into the profession,” said Marti Zins, president of the Minnesota Education Association.

Ruth Randall, Minnesota’s commissioner of education, agreed that there needs to be more “investment” in teachers’ colleges. As an example of their low status, she pointed to the absence of “endowed chairs” for the University of Minnesota’s teacher-training program.

Ms. Randall also told members of the commission that the role teachers will play in the future must be examined to determine the direction of teacher education. Increased emphasis on individualized-instruction plans and technological advances are going to transform the teacher ''from being mainly a disseminator of information into a manager of learning,” she said, adding that if education in elementary and secondary schools is restructured, changes must occur in teacher-training programs.

In addition, Ms. Randall said she advocates a strong liberal-arts background for prospective teachers. “As we look at the future, we need teachers who are even more educated than they have been,” she said.

Attracting the Capable

Those who testified offered various solutions to the problem of attracting highly qualified students to teaching. Both Ms. Zins and Ms. Randall told the commission that increasing teachers’ salaries would attract more of the best and brightest students to the profession.

The establishment of career-ladder plans also would enhance the profession, Mr. Gabrick and Mr. McClellan said in urging the commission to examine the issue.

Mr. Gabrick added that the advisory council for the University of Wisconsin’s college of education advocates the establishment of minimum grade-point averages and standardized-test scores to ensure qualified teacher candidates.

Testing Debate

But Ross A. Nielsen, president of the Iowa Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said he questioned the need to establish minimum scores on standardized tests for entrance into teacher-training programs in light of the lack of information correlating test performance with the ability to teach.

“We need to find out what it is that makes a teacher successful,” he said. “After we’ve done that and we know what we are talking about, we can look at testing.”

Ms. Zins told the commission that more, and earlier, on-the-job training is necessary. Student-teaching experience that comes at the end of a four-year training program “has got to quit,” she said.

During the commission’s meet6ing, Martin Haberman, dean of the division of urban outreach at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, presented the commission with a paper entitled “An Evaluation of the Rationale for Required Teacher Education: Beginning Teachers With and Without Teacher Preparation.”

In his paper, Mr. Haberman argued that extensive knowledge of subject matter is a necessary but not sufficient condition for effective teaching and that “teacher education is a legitimate professional preparation which should be improved rather than circumvented.”

Other Papers Presented

Other papers were presented by B. Othanel Smith, a professor of education at the University of South Florida, who addressed the need to expand the research base for teacher education; and Kenneth Howey, associate dean of the College of Education at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, who discussed changes in teacher-training programs that may occur in the future.

Harry Judge, chairman of the education department at England’s Oxford University, provided an international perspective on the commission’s investigation by outlining the changes in teacher-training programs in Great Britain during the past decade.

The members of the aacte commission include:

Mr. Magrath; J.Myron Atkin, dean, School of Education, Stanford University; Frank B. Brouillet, president, Council of Chief State School Officers; John Brown, president, Coe College; Rep. Steve Cobb, Tennessee State Legislature; Mary H. Futrell, president, National Education Association; Gov. Robert D. Graham of Florida; Mari-Luci Jaramillo, associate dean, College of Education, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Jonathan Messerli, president, Muhlenberg College; Rep. Howard C. Nielson, U.S. House of Representatives; Joan Parent, immediate past president, National School Boards Association; Anne Reynolds, chancellor, the California State University System; J.T. Sandefur, dean, College of Education, Western Kentucky University; Michelle Schiffgens, Education Psychology Department, Marycrest College; Albert Shanker, president, American Federation of Teachers; Mark Shibles, dean, School of Education, University of Connecticut; and Richard C. Wallace, superintendent of schools, Pittsburgh.

A version of this article appeared in the October 03, 1984 edition of Education Week as Hearings Stress Bridge Between Teacher Colleges and Schools