To the Editor:
Your article “Momentum Builds to Restructure Teacher Education” (Education Week, Nov. 17, 2010) indicates that the trend in teacher education is greater emphasis on field experiences, including more time in school classrooms working with “experienced” teachers. My 50 years of experience as a supervising teacher, university student-teacher supervisor, and director of mathematics education programs at two major universities does not support this proposal.
In many cases, working teachers were not competent to provide advice by example to prospective teachers. In fact, what usually occurs is that the preservice teacher is indoctrinated in the “old school” way of doing things.
University educators are generally informed about new practices that are more effective. Prospective teachers leave our research- and theory-based classes eager to implement these proven methods. But when they get to the school, they quickly get the message: “This is how we do things here.”
Traditional textbooks, for example, are based on a model for a previous generation and never evaluated, often written by editors based on market research rather than the authors whose names are on the texts. (I have experienced this practice working with five major publishers.) Further, having conducted staff development with more than 100 school systems, I rarely see any change in practice among high school teachers, while elementary and middle school teachers have been open to new ideas. Thus, giving in-service teachers more influence over preservice teachers just perpetuates the failed practices in place.
Preservice teachers must be guided by individuals who are well informed about new approaches such as those exemplified by the National Science Foundation-funded curricula being used in a few schools. Giving more of a role to teachers who are not up to date will not be effective.
Grayson H. Wheatley
Bethany Beach, Del.