Major Universities Adopt Tougher Teacher-Training Requirements
Racine, Wis--The education deans of 24 leading research universities voted last week to accept a number of stringent standards for their teacher-training programs, including a provision that requires the colleges to abandon much of their current undergraduate training and offer only master's degrees for "career" teachers.
The standards constitute a reform effort that "will result in sweeping changes in teacher education," said Judith E. Lanier, chairman of the Holmes Group and dean of the college of education at Michigan State University.
The goal of the effort, according to the deans, is for the leading research institutions to train at least 10 percent of the nation's teachers, thus establishing a "corps" of professional career teachers and a career ladder based on teachers' level of educational attainment.
New Training Criteria
The new standards require prospective elementary and secondary teachers at participating colleges to major in an academic subject, to complete a year of professional study at the graduate level, and to complete a closely supervised year-long internship.
Members of the deans' group, meeting at the Johnson Foundation's Wingspread conference center here, also agreed that the career teachers trained at their institutions should be required to take a professional examination and that a significant portion of their education should take place in "exemplary school sites" to be established in collaboration with selected school districts.
The deans revealed at the conference that they are working with the American College Testing Program (act) to explore the development of entrance tests and a professional examination.
'Trickle Down' Effect
Known collectively as the Holmes Group Consortium, the deans represent, among other institutions, Columbia, Stanford, Syracuse, the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa, and the University of California at Berkeley.
Now that they have established standards, the deans will work within their institutions during the next several months, they said, to "sell" their faculties and university presidents on implementing the standards.
And while the deans have no official status outside their own schools, they hope the adoption of the standards by their prestigious institutions will have a "trickle down" effect on other teacher-training programs, as well as on the entire teaching profession.
The deans' group is named after Henry W. Holmes, dean of the Harvard 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.
While the standard requiring the colleges to drop their undergraduate programs in favor of a five-year program received the most attention and discussion during the three-day conference, it ultimately received the "overwhelming support" of the deans' group, said Ms. Lanier.
Of the 28 deans currently participating in the Holmes group's activities, only one, Willis D. Hawley of the George Peabody College for Teachers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, voted against the standard. Three deans abstained.
Mr. Hawley said last week that while he "subscribes to what the group aspires to," he cast the opposing vote because Vanderbilt does not want to eliminate its undergraduate program in education.
"The argument that I want to make is that while we may know what we want, the limited evidence relating to how to achieve our goals provides little reason to settle on particular structures," he said.
Mr. Hawley added that some of the deans' standards "are very expensive" and that "even if costs were not substantial, there are plausible competing theories about the most efficacious ways to improve the way we prepare teachers."
Cost to Taxpayers
One costly item, Mr. Hawley explained, would be the additional year of study. Public universities currently subsidize about $4,000 to $5,000 of the annual cost of educating a student, he said. Requiring an additional year of college for prospective teachers would significantly increase the taxpayers' contribution to teacher preparation, he maintained.
Mr. Hawley said he believes that the test for membership in the Holmes group should be "high standards and program improvement in the pursuit of excellence, rather than subscription to a new programmatic orthodoxy."
He added that if the Holmes group deans insist on the master's-degree model of teacher training, "it may not be seen as a disinterested strategy."
Whether Vanderbilt will continue to be a member of the Holmes group, Mr. Hawley said, will depend on the group's willingness to accommodate alternatives for accomplishing the same goals.
Early in the discussion of the standards, several other deans joined Mr. Hawley in voicing concern about the requirement that participating colleges of education offer only graduate degrees in education.
The tenor of the meetings changed, however, after what some deans described as an "inspiring" speech by former U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell.
Mr. Bell chastised the deans for seeming to back off their proposed standards and told them he was "underwhelmed with the conversation and the tone of it."
"Have yourselves a lively brawl," he said, "but come up with a firm commitment."
He told the deans that within the next five to seven years about half of the current teaching force will be replaced, and that he hoped the leading research universities would take a much more active role in training teachers.
"We desperately need to build a truly great teaching profession," he said. "I would plead with you that you are the key to that door. Don't throw it away."
In a session shortly after Mr. Bell's speech, the group approved the controversial standard.
Also adopted was a five-stage teacher-certification process. "The general design of the teaching education program for career professionals is staged, and thus comparable, in some respects, to a number of the states' attempts to recognize teachers with special talents and abilities," the Holmes group states in the introduction to the standards.
The five stages are:
Teacher candidate. Upon acceptance, prospective teachers begin their preparation, which normally would include five years of higher education.
Intern teacher. Following the five years of higher education, the teacher receives one year of close supervision while working half time and studying half time.
Novice teacher. The teacher assumes normal teaching responsibilities while receiving intensive supervision and completing necessary work and courses for certification as a career teacher.
Career teacher. The teacher is qualified and certified to assume full responsibility for teaching designated subjects.
Professional Career Teacher. This optional stage is reached after the teacher completes further study in curriculum development, teacher education, school policy and development, teaching students with special needs, research and evaluation, or specialization in a particular subject field.
The deans invited several researchers and representatives of the teaching profession to comment last week on the Holmes group's standards, and their remarks were generally favorable.
Teachers' Unions React
"We at the National Education Association have a positive sense of anticipation for the work of this group," said Sharon P. Robinson, director of instruction and professional development for the nea
Marilyn Rauth, executive director of the American Federation of Teachers' educational-issues department, told the deans that the6Holmes group proposal had "captured our imagination."
Predicated on Reform
Arthur Wise, a researcher at the Rand Corporation in Washington and director of that research organization's newly formed Center for the Study of the Teaching Profession, cautioned the deans that the success of their reform effort is predicated on the success of other educational reforms.
As most public schools are now administered, Mr. Wise said, teachers have so little autonomy that the kinds of teachers the Holmes group wants to produce would not want to work in the schools.
Vol. 04, Issue 38