Deans Considering Tougher Standards In Teacher Training

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Under proposals being considered this week by the education deans of 23 leading research universities, teacher candidates would be required to pass a professional examination prior to graduation and would "no longer major in education, but instead pursue a standard academic subject normally taught in schools."

Following that training, the preliminary proposal would require that prospective "career" teachers pursue a post-baccalaureate program leading to a master's degree and provisional certification.

Several of the proposed standards are similar to recommendations made by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education recently when it called for more rigorous teacher-training programs.

Several groups also have advocated a professional teacher examination prior to certification. (See Education Week, May 29, 1985.)

Implementation by 1990

Subject to the deans' approval, the participating colleges have agreed to implement the standards by 1990. The participating universities include Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Chicago, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Texas.

The deans' group is known as the Holmes Group Consortium in honor of the late Henry W. Holmes, dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education from 1920 to 1940. Since the group began working on the standards in 1983, it has received financial support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the Johnson Foundation, and the U.S. Education Department.

"The goal of our effort," said Judith E. Lanier, chairman of the Holmes group and dean of the college of education at Michigan State University, "is to develop exemplary standards and guidelines for quality teacher education which one or more leading institutions in each state will adopt."

The deans hope that once their institutions lend their weight to the standards, other universities will adopt them voluntarily, Ms. Lanier said.

Role of Research Universities

The Holmes group was formed by several deans who served in 1982 on a task force appointed to study accreditation of teacher-training programs by the Association of Colleges and Schools of Education in State Univer-sities and Land Grant Colleges.

In a proposal to the U.S. Secretary of Education's discretionary-funding program last year, the deans identified two major factors contributing to the "low quality" of teacher-training programs--the weak accreditation policies and practices in teacher education and "an apparent disdain for, or at least disinterest in, teacher education on the part of the leading research universities in the United States."

"If emphasis upon that which is minimally acceptable is to change, this country's leading institutions of higher education must elevate their commitment to improved forms of teacher education," the deans wrote in their proposal. "By taking teacher education more seriously, these institutions could pursue excellence rather than being satisfied with meeting minimum standards."

In setting out their reform agenel5lda, the deans decided that the effort should be "action-oriented"; manageable in size, time, and scope; and directed and undertaken by some of the most highly respected leaders in teacher education.

Meeting's Goals

During a meeting at Wingspread, the Johnson Foundation's conference center in Racine, Wis., this week, the deans were to discuss the proposed standards and were expected to approve some of them. Other meetings to refine the standards will be held in September and December. The participating colleges of education then will implement the standards and have agreed to document and communicate the process and problems of following the standards.

"Few, if any, existing teacher-preparation programs will meet the standards," according to John R. Palmer, dean of the college of education at the University of Wisconsin. "But it is hoped that the standards will indicate to both the public and the profession what is required for quality programs. For much too long we have been willing to accept compromises in the preparation of teachers."

Details of Standards

In addition to a professional teacher examination and a post-baccalaureate teacher-preparation program, the Holmes group will consider a recommendation that would require the universities to provide "an environment that respects and supports the profession itself and the inquiry needed for developing an ever-improved knowledge base in the field.''

"Respect and support for the profession are demonstrated through investments in the collective set of human and material resources needed for successful conduct of quality programs," states the standards proposal. "These investments include such obvious essentials as adequate time and support for facul-ty to excel in their scholarly work and professional practice, an appro-priately staffed faculty collective, and access to sites where exemplary practice takes place."

The proposal would require close association and collaboration with the "practicing profession" and the inclusion of "clinical faculty" who continue teaching in elementary and secondary schools as well as at the college of education.

Recruit Outstanding Students

The group will also consider a recommendation that the colleges actively recruit outstanding students and that they be tested periodically throughout their training.

The group's proposed standards on curriculum were expected to receive the most scrutiny at this week's meeting, said Ms. Lanier.

"The pejorative 'Mickey Mouse' metaphor has been used often to characterize the teacher-education curriculum," the proposal states, adding that "like most stereotyping generalizations, the metaphor combines cruel elements of exaggeration with some disquieting aspects of reality."

The proposal recommends "upgrading all major components of the curriculum" and suggests that experimental programs be created at each college for field testing various curricula.

Unions To Respond

The deans have invited Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the National Education Association, and Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, to comment on the proposed standards. In a major speech last January, Mr. Shanker suggested that all new teachers be required to take a rigorous professional teacher test.

The union leaders' participation is part of the group's effort to seek advice and support from other professional educators, policymakers, and the public, Ms. Lanier said.

Vol. 04, Issue 37

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