Trained for 'Ideal' Students, New Teachers Encounter 'At Risk'
Each year, a cadre of young, inexperienced teachers like Beth Fuqua enters America's urban schools, eager to put professional training to its ultimate test: making a difference in the lives of students.
For a fortunate few, the route to that goal will not be as tortuous as Ms. Fuqua's. They will work in schools and systems that are, to paraphrase a report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, "islands of excellence'' in a sea of community and bureaucratic indifference.
Too often, however, these beginning teachers will be asked to solve--with little support and almost no preparation--the most intractable educational problems the nation faces. Their students are, by and large, case studies of what it means to be "at risk.''
Nowhere are the changing contours of American society more visible than in its cities. And nowhere are the demographic indicators for school failure so concentrated. Though rural poverty is extensive, and though large proportions of minority students live outside the central cities, it is primarily in these urban areas that the debilitating combination of intense poverty, racial and cultural isolation, low parental achievement levels, and inadequate community supports can be found.
To these bleak indicators will be added, in most inner cities, the additional burdens of ill-maintained school facilities and scant resources. But the crucial blow to an urban child's chances for academic success could well be administered inadvertently in the classroom--by a stream of teachers whose training is inadequate and whose professional morale has been crushed by a system that offers them few rewards for creativity and little incentive to remain.
In the report that follows, Associate Editor Lynn Olson and Staff Writer Blake Rodman examine some of the forces that are producing this lethal mismatch between the availability of instructional talent and the magnitude of at-risk students' needs. During the course of their research, they discovered wide disagreements among educators over such fundamental questions as whether there are differences among children that should be addressed by teacher training.
But they also found areas of agreement, chief among them that the instability of the urban teacher corps springs from a complex set of systemic malfunctions--and that the situation is likely to worsen in the 1990's as the ranks of older teachers are depleted by a wave of retirements.
At the same time, they found many educators who are working to better their schools and who believe, as one superintendent put it, that "an inner-city school can be as exciting, successful, and innovative as a school in any suburban district.'' Making more of them fit that description, most said, is a challenge that can no longer be ignored.
The Unbalanced Equation
This spring, schools of education turned out some 96,000 new teachers. But surveys suggest the vast majority have no interest in taking on one of the field's most challenging assignments: work in urban schools.
Of the 9 percent who may be motivated to seek such jobs, most will face what one observer refers to as "culture shock.''
"They're aghast,'' says Allie Landers, a counselor at the George Washington Carver Junior High School in Los Angeles. "It's a totally new world for a lot of teachers, because they have not been advised about what they're going to need in an inner city. They just haven't expected what they found.''
"We get phone calls constantly from new teachers who say things like, 'Help, I just graduated from a credentialed program and I'm here in this inner-city school and I have no idea of what to do','' says Kati Haycock, executive director of the Achievement Council, a California advocacy group.
"'I was trained to think that in my 9th-grade English class, I would have kids with 9th-grade skills,' they say, 'and instead I have kids with skills ranging from 1st grade to 10th grade.'''
Robin Willner, staff director for the Educational Priorities Panel in New York City, says that in that system "it's very likely you'll be teaching a class that has five to 10 kids who are limited-English-proficient, and four or five kids who are going into a resource room for two periods a day because they have special-education needs, and that half of your kids are going to be behind in reading level.''
"Our colleges and universities are not preparing teachers for that kind of a class,'' Ms. Willner asserts. "They're preparing teachers to walk in and if this is 3rd grade, everybody is prepared to pick up the 3rd-grade textbook.''
Why that is so, when both the proportion of American children who are at risk of school failure and the demand for skilled new teachers are burgeoning, is a question many in the schools of education are just beginning to grapple with.
The issues it raises are among the most sensitive in education--ranging from whether an overwhelmingly white teaching force can be encouraged to work in urban settings that are "majority minority,'' to whether there are real differences among children from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds that training should take into account.
The latter, as the director of training at one prestigious school of education puts it, "is a perception that I don't think we in teacher education are prepared to say is valid.''
Although schools of education know "they ought to be doing things differently,'' says Donna Golnick, deputy executive director of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, "I'm not sure they've figured out exactly what to do.''
But for the harshest critics of teacher-preparation programs, that uncertainty is simply a sign of their bankrupt response to the contemporary demands of teaching. They maintain that the curricula, student-teaching placements, and faculty provided by the education schools all combine to prepare teachers for a student body that no longer exists.
"What we have essentially are irrelevant schools of education that don't prepare people to work in urban schools,'' says Martin Haberman, a professor of education at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
"I don't think they prepare teachers to work anywhere,'' he adds, "but it's masked and hidden in schools where kids are willing to play along, and the truth of the failure comes out in schools where kids need teachers.''
Adds Jim Cummins, associate professor of education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education: "It's time to look very seriously at the idealized student that is presented in schools of education. In urban areas, they're getting few and far between--yet the system hasn't changed.''
In fact, according to one critic, schools of education have done so little to prepare teachers to work with a multiracial and multiethnic student body that their contribution amounts to a "nonevent.''
Most schools of education are located in rural and suburban settings, far from where the majority of poor and minority children live. And their students are overwhelmingly young, white, and female.
Even those education schools located in urban areas, says Alonzo A. Crim, superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools, "tend to build big, high fences and ignore the fact that the urban communities exist.''
Education-school deans ascribe their current situation, in part, to the historically low status of teacher education in general.
"Most schools of education, until the last half-dozen years, have not taken teacher training seriously,'' says Patricia Albjerg Graham, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "It has been the lowest-status item in a low-status school.''
"Teacher education hasn't been given the visibility and the importance that is now attached to it,'' agrees Robert H. Koff, dean of the school of education at the State University of New York at Albany. "It used to be that we talked about teacher-proof curricula. But now teachers are recognized as being absolutely crucial to facilitating the educational process.''
Geography has also been a factor, according to Mr. Koff. "Inner cities have not had major universities known for the training of educational personnel,'' he says. In addition, he argues, "it's only in the last 20 years that we have had inner-city schools with the character and set of problems that they have now.''
Never a Priority
Even more important, these educators note, is the fact that, until now, the successful education of all Americans has never been a high priority, either for the nation's public schools or for its teacher-training institutions.
"Public schools have done a superb job with about 30 percent of the pupil population,'' says Mr. Koff, "better than they've ever done. But there's some 70 percent of the pupil population in this country that are not being well-served.''
"By and large, beginning teachers are trained in an environment at the university level that appreciates and reinforces the values of the 30 percent of students receiving fine educations,'' he adds. "As a consequence, they emulate those values, they model those values, and they don't provide the kinds of services necessary for the remaining 70 percent to make it.''
"Nobody has ever tried to educate to really make at-risk kids achieve academically,'' asserts Ms. Graham of Harvard. "Individually, yes, but not as a group. Nobody has ever really had that as a primary goal.''
"We have cared about keeping these students in school, keeping them on the attendance roles,'' she contends, "but we have not cared deeply about making sure these youngsters were able to read difficult and complex pieces of literature and write sensibly about them. Never have we cared about that.''
Today, a "growing awareness'' of the difficulties associated with teaching students in multiethnic, multicultural settings is pushing schools of education "faster than we've ever been pushed before,'' says Gary A. Griffin, dean of the college of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
That awareness has grown out of sobering statistics that show the future composition of America's student population. It is a portrait that many say will soon make a laissez faire attitude toward the education of disadvantaged youngsters impossible.
Among today's 4- and 5-year-olds--the potential students and workers of the year 2000--one in four is poor, and one in three is nonwhite or Hispanic.
Increasingly, these poor and minority children are concentrated in central cities, where teacher shortages are most acute. Already, in 24 of the country's largest city school systems, the majority of students are members of a minority group.
Low academic achievement, high dropout rates, and other signs of school failure continue to characterize many of these large urban school systems.
"It is unacceptable that, year after year, about one out of every three urban students leaves school before completing the program or receiving a diploma,'' argue the trustees of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in a report on urban schools released this year.
"While the dropout rate among nonwhites has slowed,'' the trustees note, "academic failure rates continue to be considerably higher for minority students than for whites.''
"This gap persists,'' they add, "precisely at a time when black and Hispanic students represent a growing proportion of the population.''
"For a number of years,'' says Barbara Hatton, program officer for education and culture at the Ford Foundation, "we've excused teachers because their students didn't have breakfast or their mother wasn't married or they didn't speak English or whatever.''
That situation is changing, she contends, "because if you're going to teach, you're going to have these students.''
'Foods and Fiestas' And 'Fat Kids That Dance'
If schools of education have paid any attention at all to the growing diversity in the nation's classrooms, it has usually been through the creation of one or two courses in "multicultural education.''
This has been particularly true since 1978, when the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education required the institutions it certifies to incorporate "multicultural and global perspectives'' into their curriculum.
The accrediting agency also requires teacher-training programs to help students modify their teaching for "individual learning needs, especially for culturally diverse and exceptional populations.''
The response to these requirements, according to many educators, has been a disjointed series of "add ons'' to the curriculum, or what one advocate for poor and minority students characterizes as a "foods and fiestas'' approach to increasing teachers' cultural awareness.
"Most of what has been done is a workshop, perhaps a course, in multicultural education,'' says Carl Grant, professor of education and chairman of the Afro-American Studies department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
"Someone says, 'Well, I've mentioned blacks, so I've done multicultural education. Or, 'I've mentioned women','' he says. "But they've left out Chicanos, Native Americans.''
In a paper prepared for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, two professors at Santa Clara University, Joyce Elaine King and Gloria Ladson-Billings, refer to these limited approaches as "Fat Kids that Dance,'' because of the "preponderance of ethnic cooking and dancing that constitute many multicultural education programs.''
Such "additive'' approaches to the curriculum, they suggest, often make future teachers feel even "more removed from other cultures, because of what they perceive as exotic, strange, or 'quaint' customs.''
In contrast, says Virginia Richardson-Koehler, professor of education at the University of Arizona, "preparing students to work with kids from different backgrounds has to be an emphasis that permeates the curriculum.''
"There has to be a commitment from the whole institution to work with different populations of students,'' Ms. Koehler says. "If it's a one-unit course, then it's not a real important thing. Students sense it. It's simply another hurdle ... just something that they have to suffer through.''
In addition, she argues, if such courses are not handled "very carefully, the students themselves feel like they are being blamed for being white and middle class, and they get very defensive about it.''
The staunchest advocates of multicultural education contend that it teaches all students--minority and nonminority--to understand the contributions of various population groups to society, to respect cultural differences, and to challenge inequities based on race, sex, or economic status.
But skeptics question whether the courses ever really change teachers' attitudes toward their students.
Edmund Gordon, the John M. Musser professor of psychology at Yale University, says that "when it comes to changing people's attitudes, I have not found that the multicultural stuff does much.''
Even more troubling, he contends, is the possibility that such courses could backfire and lead teachers to lower their standards for children from poor or minority families.
"The problem you run into is that most persons who come out of minority populations are going to have to make it in the mainstream,'' says Mr. Gordon, "and [to do so] they've got to meet mainstream standards.''
"To the extent that my multicultural learning leads me to be too accommodating--so accommodating about where the youngster begins that it doesn't make me sensitive to where he needs to be to survive--it's dysfunctional,'' he says. "And I'm not at all convinced that most approaches to multicultural education for teachers have been all that sophisticated or discriminating.''
"Too often,'' notes Ms. Graham of Harvard, "knowledge of different cultures has led to diminished expectations on the part of teachers for children from certain cultures. If you see a child in your class who is brown, from a poor family, with only one parent at home, and who speaks English with difficulty, your cultural expectations for that child are likely to be different from your cultural expectations for the child of a bank president and his lawyer-wife who are white.''
'There Is No Special Pedagogy for At-Risk Kids'
But if multicultural education, by itself, is insufficient to prepare teachers for urban settings, there is little agreement about exactly what is needed.
Some argue that these educators need to be good teachers "plus.''
Like all teachers, they need a firm grounding in their subject matter, in classroom organization and management, and in pedagogy. But in addition to that, these experts call for a long list of more specialized information that might include:
- The rules of communication among nonwhite cultural groups;
- The points of interference between "standard English'' and "nonstandard Black English'';
- The difficulties in acquiring a second language;
- Special ways to motivate and reach students;
- Issues surrounding drug abuse and child abuse; and
- Ways to work with other social-service providers, including health-care workers, social workers, and representatives of the criminal-justice system.
The State University of New York, for example, has considered requiring its teacher-education graduates to demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English, according to Mr. Koff of SUNY-Albany.
"Clearly, if you're going to be placing students in inner-city schools, or schools where a second language is a major problem,'' he says, "then they ought to have some conversancy in that language.''
James P. Comer, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University, argues that teachers should be more rigorously trained in child development and the behavioral sciences. This would be particularly helpful for teachers in urban areas, he suggests, because so many poor and minority children arrive at school without the early experiences that would prepare them for academic learning.
Future teachers should also know how to work effectively with parents and community members, he contends, and should learn the basic principles of school organization and management and have opportunities to practice "realistic alternatives to negative discipline.''
Mr. Gordon of Yale says that teachers of some disadvantaged students may have to provide through "direct instruction'' what "more privileged students seem to be learning through incidental learning experiences.''
These skills include, he says, precision in the use of language and numbers; systematic approaches to problem-solving; an understanding of their own thinking processes and how to use them selectively; ways to monitor, evaluate, and correct their own performance; methods to link new experiences or information with previously learned material; and ways to transfer these skills from one subject area to another.
Equally problematic, he adds, is helping teachers develop in their students a disposition to use such skills.
But in general, Mr. Gordon argues, the expertise needed by "effective teachers of disadvantaged students'' probably includes "many of the same things that teachers of more privileged kids need.''
Many observers suggest, in fact, that differences between the learning needs of disadvantaged students and those from more privileged backgrounds have been grossly exaggerated, and should not be emphasized in teacher-training programs.
No 'Magic Potions'
"The idea that kids learn differently--and that some sort of special, magical approach or potion is necessary for minority kids--is very much overplayed,'' says Ms. Haycock of the Achievement Council. "What we haven't tried is educating them the same way we do other kids.''
"Teachers need to know that all kids, regardless of their cultural background, need access to a rigorous, rich, common core of knowledge,'' she argues. "The idea is not to pity these kids, but to teach them.''
Asa Hilliard 3rd, professor of education at Georgia State University in Atlanta, agrees. "'At risk' students thrive on intellectual challenge,'' he says, "not on low-level remedial work. Successful approaches do not imitate the procedures for pigeon training.''
"There is no special pedagogy for 'at risk' students,'' Mr. Hilliard contends in a paper prepared for the Council of Chief State School Officers and included in a book to be issued by the chiefs next fall. "The pedagogy that works for them is good for all students. 'At risk' students fail to achieve because appropriate regular pedagogy has not been provided to them.''
Says Deborah Meier, director of the Central Park East Secondary School in New York City: "If we started practicing everything we know about good education that is now reserved for more privileged kids, and that didn't work, then I'd be willing to argue about whether these kids need something special.''
Instead, she notes, "we give these kids the worst buildings, the most anonymous curriculum, the least trained people, the largest class sizes, and the least support services and then say, 'Isn't it amazing that it turns out so badly?' I think it's amazing that they stay in schools.''
Many educators are particularly critical of research suggesting that differing "learning styles'' among children from particular cultural backgrounds may require educators to tailor their instructional techniques.
Numerous research studies have found, for example, that "Hispanic students adapt better to cooperative learning activities than to more competitive learning activities,'' according to G. Pritchy Smith, chairman of the division of curriculum and instruction at the University of North Florida.
"There are similar cultural traits in many Native-American tribes,'' he says, "where it's undesirable for one's own achievement to diminish the achievement of others.''
But while there are cultural differences in the ways children approach tasks, Mr. Cummins of the Ontario Institute warns that research in this area has been "relatively fuzzy.''
"The danger with that kind of research,'' he says, "is that it can lead to stereotyping. It can lead to expectations on the part of teachers that all children from a particular cultural group can only learn in one way.''
In contrast, he argues, "there's a need to allow all children to experience different kinds of learning.''
"To talk about the differences in learning styles between cultural groups is a gross oversimplification,'' contends Shirley Brice Heath, a professor of English and linguistics at Stanford University. "It just gives us a new label and a new set of excuses to blame the victim.''
The problem, says Lee S. Shulman, a professor of education at Stanford, is that "the line between responsiveness to student diversity, on the one hand, and stereotyped thinking about kinds of kids, on the other, is a very thin one.''
"As soon as you start asking people how they would deal with kinds of kids,'' he says, "you reify the 'kind-ness.' But if you don't raise those issues at all, you perhaps encourage a homogeneity of thought. Neither is acceptable, but the solution is not all that clear. The field hasn't worked this out yet.''
Mr. Gordon speculates that one of the problems with learning-styles research, in particular, is that it does not take into account the many other factors that might influence a child's academic performance.
"Even though I may bring a particular learning style to a learning problem,'' he says, "I bring a lot of other things with me. And what seems to be important is the way in which I put my learning style together with motivation, interest, prior knowledge, culture, and a lot of other factors to make learning work or not work for me.''
"When we single out learning styles to try to create a match,'' he argues, "we aren't controlling enough other sources of variance to make the difference that one would think.''
What prospective and practicing teachers really need, many educators argue, is a broader range of instructional skills than they now possess and better information about when to use them.
George McKenna, principal of Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, says that many teachers "haven't been taught how to individualize instruction and maintain a class with a broad level of abilities.''
Ms. Haycock of the Achievement Council says that "what gives [teachers] trouble, primarily, is the range of skills they see in their classrooms.''
But according to Ms. Graham of Harvard, educators "have made very little effort to have teachers change their pedagogical style to meet children's learning needs.''
"We have expected children to adapt to the teacher's pedagogical style,'' she notes, "and we have assumed that those children who do not are stupid.''
What the education schools should do, according to Ms. Haycock, is look at what effective urban teachers do in their classrooms and incorporate that information into their training programs.
"I don't get the sense that much of that is being done,'' she says.
Development of the "Teachers for Alaska'' program at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, was based on such an approach. It uses the insights of experienced Alaskan teachers to prepare students to work in the state's isolated rural schools, which serve large numbers of Eskimo and American-Indian children.
The content of the program is grounded in "practical problems'' faced by veteran teachers in such schools, according to Judith Kleinfeld, director of the program.
"We tell lots of 'teacher tales,''' she says. "We have teaching cases that are based on the Harvard Business School's model, which help people analyze culturally different situations. We have numerous tales of how teachers have gotten into trouble. And we have tales of innovative, wonderful things that teachers have done.''
"In a science unit, for example, we begin with a series of real problems--difficult problems--that the teachers who work with us agonize over,'' she explains. "'How am I going to teach science when most of my students cannot read the textbook that the district has assigned? What does it mean to grade fairly, when your English class consists of seven white kids, most of whom are the children of teachers and government employees, and seven Eskimo kids, most of whom are the children of first-generation speakers of English?'''
The idea behind the program, she says, is to make prospective teachers sensitive to the specific context in which they teach; the purposes of what they teach; the ethical decisions involved; and the array of teaching strategies open to them.
"There are so many rich possibilities of ways to teach,'' says Ms. Kleinfeld. "I think the problem is not giving people a sense of when these methods are appropriate.''
Going Beyond the 'Generic'
With the support of a grant from the Exxon Education Foundation, researchers from the United States, Austria, and England are also exploring the knowledge base of experienced urban teachers.
One of the project's goals, according to Leonard C. Beckum, its coordinator and dean of the school of education at City College, City University of New York, is "to determine whether or not in a multicultural, multilingual urban setting, teachers need skills that go beyond what we're calling 'generic' teacher-education skills.''
The study will identify more than 100 exemplary teachers in urban settings and observe and interview them over the coming year to see how they respond to "typical learning challenges.''
"We look upon this as a pilot study,'' says Mr. Beckum, "to see whether or not there are some skills or behaviors that can be put in place in a revised teacher-training program.''
City College and several other New York universities--including Queens College and Teachers College, Columbia University--have also created programs to recruit more minority students into teaching and prepare them to work in urban settings.
Where They Can 'Survive' Is Not 'Where the Kids Are'
The weakest link of all in the preservice preparation of teachers, according to many experts, is the quality of clinical training.
Most student teaching, says Ms. Hatton of the Ford Foundation, is "badly conceived'' and "done in fairly narrow sites,'' where students may not even be exposed to culturally diverse populations.
Earlier and more appropriate field placements in big-city schools, she and others maintain, could alleviate students' anxiety about urban areas, help them develop confidence in working with students whose backgrounds differ from theirs, and perhaps encourage them to go into urban education.
"The old-style student teaching was to put your students in the most privileged schools you could find, because there they would see the optimum teaching and they could model themselves on that behavior,'' says Ms. Graham of Harvard. "And what that does is to frighten those potential teachers from ever going into another type of school.''
Even today, says John I. Goodlad, professor of education at the University of Washington, "the urban teacher-preparing institutions are placing most of their students into suburban settings for their student teaching.''
As a result, he says, prospective teachers "are going to go where they think they can survive, and that's not where the bulk of the kids are.''
"I just don't think we're coming close to addressing how serious this is,'' Mr. Goodlad says.
Michael Bakalis, dean of the school of education at Loyola University in Chicago, says that "in the universities that are more selective about who they allow in, those who graduate tend not even to apply to school districts like Chicago.''
"Our graduates, and graduates of places like DePaul, seldom want to go into the Chicago school system,'' says Mr. Bakalis. "We are right in the middle of the city, but our students don't want to go there at all.''
In one major city, none of the 75 students who graduated last year from a nearby teacher-training program chose to work in the urban district.
Now, however, changes in the NCATE standards require that universities provide student teachers with clinical experiences that expose them to "culturally diverse populations.'' And some states, such as California, also have such a requirement.
But for many institutions located in suburban settings, finding multicultural student bodies is a problem, says Donna Golnick of NCATE.
To attack it, she says, schools of education are exploring "exchange programs'' with their more urban counterparts. And they are rethinking their relationships with the public schools.
In partnership with the Houston Unified School District, for example, the college of education at the University of Houston has created an experimental "teaching academy'' in an inner-city school, which will be used for both the preservice and inservice training of teachers.
And next fall, the University of Illinois at Chicago plans to phase in an alternative teacher-education program that will be centered on carefully structured field experiences in the Chicago Public Schools.
"We get kids here and we never end up placing them in the Chicago Public Schools,'' says William Ayers, director of the university's teacher-education program. "This program, hopefully, will address that.''
"At first, when students begin to realize that their practicum experiences will be in situations that are very different from their own, they're a little bit edgy,'' says Mr. Griffin, dean of the college of education. "There's a lot of trepidation going in, and yet in almost every instance, they come out very enthusiastic about the school and the kids.''
"What we have to do,'' he adds, "is guide the social and personal understandings of our students, as well as their intellectual understandings. And that takes faculty who are sensitive and supervising teachers in the schools who are understanding and sensitive.''
In part, he and others note, this also means paying more attention to the inservice training of the existing teaching force, in addition to the preparation of new teachers.
Professional development for practicing classroom teachers is particularly important, says Mr. Hilliard of Georgia State, because "many of them are going to be in place for the next 10 years, and they will be working with the bulk of the students that we're talking about.''
Field experiences that include supervision by teachers who are themselves poorly prepared, or situations that are not handled carefully, could serve to reaffirm stereotypes about poor and minority students, experts warn.
Given the scant financial commitment to practice teaching at most universities, they add, that scenario remains all too likely.
In general, notes Mr. Goodlad, schools of education have limited resources and spend little of what they do have on student teaching.
"Nobody has got time to do what falls between the cracks,'' he says. "Teacher-preparation institutions don't have the resources to follow their students into the school settings, where they're being placed as student teachers. What we're really doing is dumping these kids out to places where they are simply learning conventional practice.''
"The solution does not lie in more practice teaching,'' argues Mr. Haberman of the University of Wisconsin. "What happens in practice teaching is that you get late-adolescent girls who are frightened and racist, and they use practice teaching to selectively perceive what they want to perceive. They end up at the end of the lesson worse than when they began.''
This is true in particular, he says, because of the limited experience education-school faculty members have in urban settings. Fewer than 1 percent, he asserts, have ever taught in urban schools long enough to achieve tenure.
Only Enough 'To Get Started'
So little faith has Mr. Haberman in the ability of education schools to prepare teachers for urban areas that he is working to create a school-based training program developed predominantly by classroom teachers. (See related story, page 21.)
His initiative represents one of the more extreme approaches to changing teacher-training programs. Other educators question whether any preservice program can adequately prepare teachers for the demands of urban settings or the needs of disadvantaged youngsters.
The education schools, they say, are struggling not only with harsh criticism but with even harsher fiscal realities. Many have only meager resources and are still trying to recover from a 15-year enrollment decline.
"There is a limit to what colleges of education can do,'' says Bill Katzenmeyer, dean of the college of education at the University of South Florida, which has created an honors program that prepares teachers to work in urban areas.
"But that upper limit is much more substantial than many people think,'' he adds.
Prospective teachers "need more than they're getting,'' says Ms. Koehler of Arizona. "That's the problem with preservice education, they need more of everything than they're getting.''
"There is so much that they have to learn,'' she adds. "When you talk to beginning teachers, they say, 'We didn't know this, and we didn't know that.' There are just so many areas in which they are not adequately prepared.''
Pedagogical expertise, in particular, warns Ms. Graham, "does not come with the preservice program. The preservice program, by its nature, is just enough to get you started in the classroom.''
"You can't learn about pedagogically sophisticated modes of teaching when you are trying to figure out how to discipline a class,'' she states, "which is what most first-year teachers spend most of their time doing.''
In addition, cautions Mr. Shulman of Stanford, "there is no way in which a general teacher-preparation program'' is going to educate teachers about all the different cultural norms they might encounter in a classroom.
Preservice programs can create "cultural understanding slots'' in people's minds, he says, but once teachers arrive at a particular school, "there has got to be intensive inservice training and staff development that is culturally sensitive.''
Even more important, experts note, universities have no control over the working conditions in urban schools--which, in many instances, make them inappropriate places for either students or teachers to learn.
Acknowledging education schools' limitations, many teacher educators are exploring new varieties of preparation that would be developed jointly by experienced teachers and faculty members.
The idea of creating "professional development schools'' in urban settings, in which all new teachers would be trained, is a particularly appealing strategy, they say.
Phillip C. Schlechty, executive director of the Gheens Professional Development Academy in Jefferson County, Ky., has been working to create such settings within the Greater Louisville school system.
"One of the things that we're really working toward,'' he says, "is establishing some of your teacher-training programs in precisely the kinds of schools where people are most likely to start teaching--inner-city schools and rural schools.''
Such schools theoretically would exemplify the best in teaching research and practice. And they would be rich in resources for both students and instructors.
Although professional-development schools have been advocated as a way to improve the preparation of educators, notes Arthur E. Wise, director of the RAND Corporation's center for the study of the teaching profession, they are "first and foremost a proposal to raise the quality of education that at-risk students receive.''
Such schools, or something like them, could help tackle the central dilemma in education, says Mr. Goodlad: how to reform both the public schools and the nation's teacher-preparation programs simultaneously.
"If you educate people to survive in the system and accept it the way it is, then you don't have any tension,'' he notes. "But if you educate a teacher the way it ought to be done, and then dump them into these environments, they are going to quit.''
On the other hand, the system now "puts teachers out into schools who are not prepared for what they are going to see,'' says Mr. Ayers of the University of Illinois at Chicago. "But we are still surprised when they fail, or take on attitudes that we think they shouldn't have.''
"But we can't say that teachers are failing,'' he concludes, "without noting that we send them into a situation that grinds them up.''
Staff writer Blake Rodman contributed to this report.
Vol. 07, Issue 39