All of us who lead schools have, at one time or another, benefitted from a school of education within an institution of higher education. This may be a moment when we can again learn from them...what to do or not do. Public schools have been criticized for the knowledge and skills our graduates possess with the charge that they are not college and career ready, especially for the world’s new workplaces. Meanwhile, our struggles are many: implementing new requirements from RTTT for evaluation and accountability, dwindling resources, reducing the number of teachers and number of program offerings.
Let’s consider the systemic impact of our situation on colleges. As our systems have been shrinking, colleges continued to admit, prepare and graduate more teachers. It is their business and their revue stream. Even though there are no jobs for those graduates, production continues. In fact, in 2009-2010, Illinois produced 930% more teachers than were needed. The details of this phenomenon can be found in the January 23 online issue of EdWeek. Worse yet, too many colleges still offer antiquated education programs, modified by vocabulary change, including the terms Common Core, differentiation, or rigor, and preparing students for certification tests.
The alternative is for them to create programs that lead the way to help us change the learning environments of classrooms. Teaching and teachers are essential for us to make that happen. We are facing considerations of longer school day, longer school year, blended learning environments, MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) digital textbooks, second life virtual worlds, and new partnerships, all at a time when we have less money to invest. Without colleges keeping pace, we are sure to fail. If courses are free, and textbooks are digital, but they contain the same old material, then the actual result will be nothing new.
So, what do we need?
We need new thinkers. And, we need to develop them, from within, right now.
So, as schools of education struggle with their conscience about purpose, let’s support those who are strong enough to let the old teacher preparation programs go, who are optimistic enough to see their new role and who are resolved enough to reinvent themselves. In this period where we are not hiring many new teachers, we need our existing teachers to become new. Where are the deans and college faculty who are willing to step into that partnership and the hard, invigorating work of leading change? For schools of education, the work of “higher ed” and “lower ed” cannot be separate. Those days have passed. Our schools and our children are in the learning crucible. They need all of us on the same page.
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The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 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.