Kevin K. Kumashiro
The research is clear. Evaluations of teacher-preparation programs should not rely on methods of analysis that purport to make causal claims between measures of student achievement, teacher performance, and program quality. Assessment experts have resoundingly refuted these methods as neither valid nor reliable for making such claims. Such is the fundamental flaw of the proposed federal teacher-preparation regulations.
If we are to hold ourselves to higher standards in terms of the ends and the means of teacher preparation, then we need to be asking very different questions about how to evaluate programs.
For example, what is the problem that we are trying to solve? Scapegoating individual teachers and the programs that prepare them distracts from the much deeper roots of educational inequities. Preparation programs make a difference when they work in concert with other social institutions to address the systemic factors that research more strongly establishes as barriers to student success, such as insufficient resources, human and civil rights violations, and disconnected curricula.
What is the solution, and why such a singular focus on the new teacher? Why, for example, do we expect new teachers to perform, on their own, as effectively as teachers with multiple years of accumulated wisdom? In high-performing school systems in other countries, preparation programs partner with schools and the teaching profession to develop institutional structures and professional cultures that treat preparedness within a more holistic, developmental, and collective framework.
What is our end goal of education? Is there not consensus that we want more for our children than high test scores? Impactful preparation programs are those that work in solidarity with their constituents in order to build capacity of not only the teachers they prepare, but also the schools and communities they serve. They strive to strengthen our democratic society.
These are the types of indicators needed to guide the preparation of our next generation of teachers.
Kevin K. Kumashiro is dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco.
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