School & District Management

Panel Examines Teacher Training

By Debra Viadero — December 13, 2005 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A national panel of scholars met here last week to begin work on a mammoth task: synthesizing research on all the ways in which teachers are prepared across the United States and advising policymakers on how to improve the process.

The $1.5 million study, which members of Congress quietly commissioned last year as part of an appropriations bill, will take 2½ years to complete. It’s being overseen by the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academies, a group created by Congress in 1863 to advise the federal government on scientific matters.

More information on the National Research Council‘s Committee on the Study of Teacher Preparation Programs is available from the National Academies.

The project unfolds at a time when teacher education is rising in importance—and in controversy—on the national education agenda. The No Child Left Behind Act, the nearly 4-year-old federal law that set in motion President Bush’s signature education program, calls for staffing every classroom with a “highly qualified” teacher by this school year or next. Experts and policymakers bitterly disagree over how to do that.

“On the one hand, there is an optimism on the importance of teachers,” Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, the director of the Institute of Education Sciences at the U. S. Department of Education, told the group. “On the other, there is a … general concern about the quality of teachers we have now.”

The 18 panelists selected by the research council to carry out the study include deans and former deans of education schools, critics of traditional teacher education programs, and mathematics and engineering scholars.

“We tried to get everything in the sense of people who are all involved in and know something about research,” said Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, a panel co-chair. Currently a professor of history of American education at Harvard University, Ms. Lagemann is also a former dean of the university’s graduate school of education. The panel’s other co-chair is Kenneth I. Shine, the executive vice chancellor for health affairs of the University of Texas System.

Questions and Evidence

Committee Roster

The co-chairs of the Committee on Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States are Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, a professor of history of American education at Harvard University, and Kenneth I. Shine, the executive vice chancellor for health affairs for the University of Texas System. Other members are:

Herbert K. Brunkhorst, professor of science education and biology, California State University-San Bernardino;

Margarita Calderón, senior research scientist and professor, Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore;

Marilyn Cochran-Smith, professor of teacher education, Boston College;

Janice A. Dole, associate professor of teaching and learning, University of Utah, Salt Lake City;

Donald N. Langenberg, chancellor emeritus, University System of Maryland;

Ronald M. Latanision, professor emeritus of materials science and engineering and nuclear engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.;

W. James Lewis, professor of mathematics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln;

David H. Monk, dean of education, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.

Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar, chair of reading and literacy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor;

Michael Podgursky, professor of economics, University of Missouri-Columbia;

Andrew C. Porter, professor of educational leadership and policy, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

Edward A. Silver, associate dean for academic affairs, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor;

Dorothy S. Strickland, professor of education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.

Suzanne M. Wilson, professor of teacher education, Michigan State University, East Lansing;

Hung-His Wu, professor of mathematics, University of California, Berkeley; and

James H. Wyckoff, associate professor of public administration, public policy, and economics, the State University of New York at Albany.

SOURCE: The National Academies

As part of its charge from Congress, the group will address questions on who enters teacher-preparation programs and whether they do it through traditional university undergraduate or master’s-level programs or through the newer alternate-route programs that are proliferating nationwide.

It will also explore the content of those programs to determine whether they cover common ground and the extent to which the practices they preach converge with existing scientific evidence on effective teaching in reading and mathematics.

In addition to those goals, the group is expected to articulate where research gaps exist and map out new directions for future studies.

Panelists and presenters at the panel’s opening meeting on Dec. 7 seemed to agree that panelists faced a challenging task. Besides wading into controversy, committee members will need to sift through a body of research that experts agree is sparse and contradictory.

“My fundamental bias is I’m not yet convinced we have any idea how to construct a science of pedagogy,” Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute in Washington, told the panel. “Just because you can get a bunch of experts in a room to hammer out a consensus doesn’t mean you know what you’re talking about.”

Mr. Hess was among eight experts invited to speak at last week’s meeting. He argued that the lack of solid research in the field was reason for making pathways into teaching more open and flexible.

But other speakers offered a range of other suggestions for the panel’s work. The ideas included: Studying the syllabi used in teacher education programs; determining how to inculcate in teachers a disposition to teach all students rather than those who are easiest to educate; defining what teachers should know at several points along their career trajectories; and creating a model education school.

“We ought to figure out how to get it right someplace to prove that it could happen,” Deborah M. McGriff, the chief communications officer for Edison Schools Inc., a New York City-based company that manages public schools, told the committee.

Flurry of Studies

As ambitious as it is, the study is among a small flurry of reports in the last year or two to explore research on teachers. Two Washington-based groups, the National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association, produced reports this year tackling similar research questions from different angles.

The most recent, the AERA’s 766-page report on teacher education, took four years to complete. But several experts said the committee could still make a contribution by assessing the research candidly and pointing to definite future directions for policymakers to take.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean
Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Will Schools Reopen Quickly After Hurricane Ian Passes? It Depends
Even before district leaders started shelter operations, they were getting asked when kids could return.
Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
3 min read
Beulah Stand, a sixth grade math teacher at John Hopkins, carries her pillow and a suitcase into the Pinellas County special needs shelter at John Hopkins Middle School, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Fla., as Florida's west coast prepares for Hurricane Ian. Stand will be staying at the center to work during the storm. The evacuation center, which is only for people with special needs, has a capacity of over 700 people.
Beulah Stand, a 6th grade math teacher at John Hopkins, carries her pillow and a suitcase into the Pinellas County special needs shelter at John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg, Fla., as Florida's west coast prepares for Hurricane Ian. Stand will be staying at the center to work during the storm. The evacuation center, which is only for people with special needs, has a capacity of over 700 people.
Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times via AP
School & District Management How District Leaders Can Make Sure Teachers Don't Miss the Loan-Forgiveness Deadline
Many teachers and other public employees may not know they qualify for a student loan-forgiveness waiver that has an Oct. 31 deadline.
4 min read
Young adult woman cutting the ball and chain labeled "Debt" which is attached as the tassel hanging from a graduate's mortarboard
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Download A Visual Guide to Nonverbal Communication (Download)
Understanding nonverbal communication can help you improve interactions and get your message across.
1 min read
v42 8SR Nonverbal Communication Share Image
Gina Tomko/Education Week and Getty
School & District Management Ensure Your Staff Gets the Message: 3 Tips for School Leaders
School staff are inundated with information. Here's a few ways to ensure they will actually hear you.
3 min read
Image showing a female and male in business attire connecting speech bubble puzzle pieces.
iStock/Getty Images Plus