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Scholars Hold Divided Views of School Reform

"Cracks in the Ivory Tower?"

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The professors who prepare the nation’s teachers hold views about the field that are often—but not always—at odds with the reform strategies that are at the front and center of national education debates, according to a new report.

Conducted under a contract with the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the study is based on a survey of 716 randomly selected academics. Though not uniformly education-school professors, the respondents all had some responsibility for preparing aspiring teachers. Researchers also held small focus groups with scholars in Ohio, North Carolina, and California.

The results showed, for example, that while 42 percent of the scholars oppose the idea of recruiting teaching candidates based on their success in other fields, 63 percent said they favor programs such as Teach For America, which draws top college graduates with a variety of majors to teach in disadvantaged schools.

Seventy-eight percent of those polled support a core curriculum with specific knowledge and skill standards spelled out for each grade. Just 49 percent, though, think state governments should adopt the same standards and give the same tests in mathematics, science, and reading nationwide.

With regard to teacher pay incentives, 83 percent favor paying teachers more to work in tough neighborhoods with low-performing schools, while 30 percent support merit pay for teachers whose students routinely excel on standardized tests.

“Education professors evinced divided opinions on many issues, some defensiveness, and a remarkable willingness to criticize educator-preparation programs such as their own,” the study says.

The results also show, however, that progressive notions about education, such as the belief that teachers should be facilitators rather than conveyors of knowledge, still dominate just as they did in 1997 when a similar survey was conducted.

Vol. 30, Issue 06, Page 5

Published in Print: October 6, 2010, as Scholars Hold Divided Views of School Reform
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