Right now, teacher education varies tremendously within the US. Nearly all teacher training and certification programs are housed in colleges and universities, where they are widely regarded as “cash cows"—easy to get into, and profitable for their institutions. Some of these programs are excellent, many are fair to middling, and some are very poor. We have the kind of variation you’d expect in a country this big, with as decentralized an education system as we have. It is our way.
We are also a fairly entrepreneurial country, which contributes to our resistance to a top-down nationalized education system. We like to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, take our own risks, and reap our own rewards. Here’s a proposal for doing just that—and trying something new in teacher education at the same time.
Teacher training once took place primarily in normal schools, which provided students with a better education than they might otherwise be able to access, and provided prospective teachers with hands-on training under the guidance of master teachers.
Our system today is that teacher candidates take classes in a university, and complete their internships in nearby schools that have at best a weak connection to the university. In the best of these programs, efforts are made to align the mentorship of the master teacher with the content of the teacher education program, but usually this consists of a single workshop or class for mentor teachers.
Mentor teachers, in exchange for their time, are usually paid between $50 and $500 for hosting an intern. Meanwhile, universities commonly take in $20,000 or more per teacher candidate, to cover the cost of providing instruction, credits, and field supervision during the internship.
What if we flipped this? What if teacher education were done by master teachers who currently work in schools (perhaps part-time, perhaps full-time with assistance), who could supervise all aspects of the teacher’s internship?
Say a master teacher obtains accreditation to take on three interns at a time, and charges them $10,000 or $20,000 each (or better yet, charges a third party such as a school district or foundation). Over the course of the year, this master teacher supervises their teaching, reviews and provides feedback on their academic work, and ensures that they emerge from the program ready to teach.
All of the content that’s currently taught on college campuses could be delivered online, Khan-Academy style, and the candidates’ work could be scored by the mentor teacher, who can make better connections to their daily teaching practice.
Master teachers get 3 assistants and a $60K stipend, and future teachers get solid preparation for the classroom.
The opinions expressed in On Performance are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.