To the Editor:
As teacher-educators, we read the recent report by our former president, Arthur E. Levine, with a great deal of interest (“Prominent Teacher-Educator Assails Field, Suggests New Accrediting Body in Report,” Sept. 20, 2006). Although he found it “useful to omit Teachers College” from the study “to eliminate the appearance of bias,” we want to underscore the utility of separating Teachers College from his study, its methods, and its conclusions.
We agree with much in the report. Many of his recommendations echo those of other “insiders” like the Holmes Group (1986) and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (1996). Mr. Levine’s predecessor at Teachers College, P. Michael Timpane, was one of four education school leaders who founded the Holmes Group. The NCTAF report was chaired by Linda Darling-Hammond, then at Teachers College. The program-quality criteria Mr. Levine proposes are strikingly similar to the criteria the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education used to review Teachers College in 2005, when Mr. Levine was the college’s president.
Despite our agreement that teacher education at Teachers College and elsewhere could be improved, we believe Mr. Levine’s report reads more like an op-ed piece than a research report. The sweeping generalities, the overly simplistic interpretations, and minimal consideration of the context of teaching are disturbing. The selection and depth of study at the selected institutions raise questions. Mr. Levine’s assumptions that differences in preparing teachers indicate failings and that achievement-test scores should be the primary measure judging the success of a teacher are problematic.
For us, one of the most puzzling, contradictory recommendations is “shifting a significant percentage” of teacher preparation to research universities. Quality teacher education programs can and do exist at many types of institutions. To shift teacher preparation to research universities, where it is often not valued, would not only gravely reduce the supply of teachers, but also reduce the diversity of the teaching force at a time when the diversity of the student population is increasing.
As teacher-educators at Teachers College, we are proud of the leadership this institution has provided over 119 years, and, hopefully, will continue to do so. At this point in time, however, we feel a need to publicly separate our efforts to improve teacher education from those associated with our former president in his latest report.
Teachers College, Columbia University
New York, N.Y.
Lin A. Goodwin
A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2006 edition of Education Week as Teachers College Colleagues Air Differences With Levine