RAND Researchers Outline Plan for ‘Teaching Internship’

By Debra Viadero — August 01, 1990 4 min read

A new report by the rand Corporation outlines a detailed plan to require aspiring teachers to undergo a paid, yearlong internship before they are licensed to practice.

Modeled after the kinds of internships required for doctors, architects, engineers, and psychologists, the “teaching internship” described in the report is intended both to assess novice teachers and to provide them with a better introduction to the profession than now exists.

“Half of the people who start to teach in big cities are gone in three to five years,” said Arthur E. Wise, former director of the rand Corporation’s Center for the Study of the Teaching Profession. “That suggests to me that teaching is a demanding job and we have to do more than we have done to prepare people for it.”

And the solution, he said, “involves not only the intellectual preparation they get in the university, but also the practical preparation they get in a real classroom.”

Mr. Wise, who is now president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, wrote the report with the former rand research associate Tamar Gendler and Linda Darling-Hammond, who is now a professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

“The Teaching Internship: Practical Preparation for a Licensed Profession,” was released last month during a meeting of the Education Commission of the States. Supported through grants from the Minnesota Board of Teaching and Southwestern Bell Foundation, it is based on the researchers’ recommendations for a structured teaching internship in Minnesota. Officials there will begin to test those ideas next year, when they launch the first of several pilot internships around the state.

School-University Collaboration

The notion of requiring teacher candidates to practice for a year in a supervised school setting is not new, Mr. Wise noted. Apart from traditional student-teaching programs, internships or mentorships that pair novices with working veteran teachers have been initiated recently in a number of states, school districts, and schools of education.

But the rand researchers say their vision for such internships is more comprehensive and ambitious than efforts in this area to date.

The internship they describe would be a single, distinct step on the route to licensure. A student would be required to complete the internship following graduation from a teacher-training program and before being permitted to take a final examination for a teaching license.

Staffed by a full-time director, the program envisioned would be a collaborative effort between schools of education and school districts, according to the report.

The researchers recommend housing such a program in what is increasingly being known in the field as professional-development or clinical schools. Much like teaching hospitals, these professional-development sites are real schools where teacher educators and practicing teachers work together to conduct research and train beginners. (See Education Week, Feb. 7, 1990.)

In that setting, the report maintains, “a critical mass” of interns could be given didactic lessons as they begin to practice their professional skills. Working all the while under the supervision of veteran teachers, they would gradually assume increasing responsibility for the classrooms to which they were assigned.

A key component of the plan is a requirement that the intern be exposed to at least two different kinds of teaching situations in the course of the year. Such varied settings might include assignments in an impoverished urban school, in a school in an affluent suburb, in classes of varying grade levels and subject areas, and with students having a variety of learning characteristics.

“We have to begin to get serious about preparing students for diversity,” Ms. Darling-Hammond explained. “Their student-teaching experiences do not prepare them for what they might face.”

And, like their counterparts in other professions, the interns should be compensated for their effort during the training period, according to the report. Their salaries, however, might be less than those of licensed beginning teachers.

“If it were to be funded out of the intern’s pocket, it would have a serious negative effect on recruitment,” Ms. Darling-Hammond said, noting that schools in many areas are experiencing shortages of teachers.

The researchers acknowledged that the cost of such programs could be high. In Minnesota, for example, officials have estimated that the cost of supervising the interns could be as much as $3,500 to $6,500 per student.

These expenses, the report says, might best be borne by the state. It notes, for example, that many states subsidize medical internships.

“The public-safety interest is strong enough to merit state support,” Ms. Darling-Hammond said.

In the end, she predicted, policymakers will want to invest in internships because they are cost-effective. Currently, she said, “the thousands of dollars” spent recruiting teachers are wasted as large numbers of beginners leave the profession within a few years. Supportive, structured internship programs, she said, might encourage them to teach longer.

The report also recommends that unions create a special membership category for teacher interns.

Copies of the 107-page report are available for $10 each from the rand Center for the Study of the Teaching Profession, Publications Department, 1700 Main St., P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, Calif. 90406-2138.

A version of this article appeared in the August 01, 1990 edition of Education Week as RAND Researchers Outline Plan for ‘Teaching Internship’