To the Editor:
I agree with the recent Commentary “Can Teacher-Educators Learn From Medical-School Reform?”, and author Benjamin Riley’s assertion that there is no collective approach that addresses the question of how to properly prepare teachers.
Suggestions for improvement include more-stringent entrance requirements for education schools, increasing compensation for teachers, and professionalization. Rhode Island, for example, has decided that by next year, admission into its colleges of education will be limited to those students who score in at least the top 50 percent of the national distribution on the SAT, the ACT, or the GRE. By 2020, admissions requirements will be limited to students scoring in the top one-third.
However, such beliefs about teacher improvement aren’t new. In 1965, Harold T. Schafer, then a New Jersey public school superintendent, published an article juxtaposing the findings of the Flexner Report with teacher education. (Published in 1910, the report examined medical school education in the United States and Canada.)
Schafer offered several recommendations for teacher training, including increasing selection criteria and certification standards, strengthening preservice training, and recognizing the financial costs associated with doing so.
Referencing the positive influence professional associations and other regulatory groups have had on the quality of medical training, Schafer also alluded to the need for increasing rigidity of accreditation standards of educational institutions, consequently resulting in a decreased number of training institutions—but with a laser focus on rigor and quality.
Several decades later, the teaching profession has come full circle.
One hallmark of a good educator is a constant quest for learning through continuous growth and improvement, particularly in the face of change. Improving teacher quality will require tremendous change. However, prudent pruning of the status quo can lead to healthy, viable, and prolific growth of the education field.
Making it harder to become a teacher is a step in the right direction. Yet, elevating the teaching profession is a complicated equation with a complex set of variables, all of which must be considered.
Public Engagement Director
Center for Development and Learning
A version of this article appeared in the August 05, 2015 edition of Education Week as Comparison of Teacher Education To Medical Training Isn’t New