College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

Teacher-Preparation Programs and Change #TBT

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — December 04, 2014 3 min read
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In 2010, the Huffington Post reported President Obama and Arnie Duncan announced in order to improve K-12 education, teacher preparation programs needed to be overhauled. Three years later, on November 25, 2014 the US Department of Education issued: "...proposed regulations that help ensure teacher training programs are preparing educators who are ready to succeed in the classroom.”

Flash back: In 1985, EdWeek reported on the National Commission for Excellence in Teacher Education. It appears the Commission had examined the academic focus of teacher preparation programs, academic and performance standards, the length of the programs, and the effort to attract qualified minority candidates. Some members of the commission felt the report could have gone further.

The most outspoken critic of the report, Albert Shanker, a member of the commission and president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement following the release of the report that he saw “major shortcomings” in the recommendations and called it a missed opportunity “to expose the full range of deficiencies in teacher education.

As a member of the commission Mr. Shanker held a belief that teacher preparation programs had “major shortcomings.” They still do.

What makes a young person a teacher? What prepares that person to walk into a school and classroom ready to:

  • know the content areas
  • plan, implement and assess learning,
  • teach groups of children, who will likely present a variety of levels of readiness for what is to be learned and
  • know, understand, and meet the complex needs students present as growing young people
  • develop successful relationships with parents and colleagues?

Teachers and Leaders Fill the Gap in Preparation of Novice Teachers
Filling the gap that those shortcomings create has become the responsibility of the teachers and leaders in schools which hire recent graduates. Those districts large enough have teacher leaders, including department chairs, and curriculum personnel in the district office who can support the principals. Together they carry the burden of developing the novice teacher. But, many more schools have only the principal and the teacher colleagues to hold the responsibility of bringing the novice teacher forward in the profession. That is a most heavy lift, one done with dedication and hopefulness, but heavy just the same. Those who step up to fill the gap are heros.

Whatever the reason, teacher education programs seem to lag behind the changes that occur in schools in some ways and jump ahead in others.This lack of consistency makes the leaders’ roles even more difficult. So, it seems it will always be the responsibility of those in leadership to hire those graduates who are the best prepared and continue their education until they are ready to fly on their own. Collaboratively delivered professional development schools is one responsive initiative that is valuable in closing this gap.

It is a Leadership Responsibility
Leaders frequently find themselves embracing what comes and shouldering the burden of new responsibilities while transforming them into a vision and goals that the rest of the organization can endorse. The leader holds it all together. Now, as these responsibilities increase, power is being distributed and shared more readily. Teacher leaders and principals, superintendents and curriculum leaders, heros all, contribute to the lift. Students benefit from a positive culture in which everyone is working toward a set of shared goals. Current students certainly cannot wait for schools of education to change. Change in higher ed seems to come even more slowly than in the K - 12 system. Perhaps we should be advocating for K - 16 systems. After all we are all educators, aren’t we?

The words of Max Weber (1864-1920), sociologist, philosopher, and political economist arise in our minds. Forgive his use of “man” and “men” as that part of his development reflects the time in which he lived. But his view on leadership appears timeless. The bolding is ours.

Politics ... takes both passion and perspective. Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth - that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. But to do that a man must be a leader, and not only a leader but a hero as well, in a very sober sense of the word. And even those who are neither leaders nor heroes must arm themselves with that steadfastness of heart which can brave even the crumbling of all hopes. This is necessary right now, or else men will not be able to attain even that which is possible today.

Connect with Ann and Jill on Twitter or Email.

Ann and Jill will be presenting at The Learning Forward Conference in Nashville on Tuesday December 9th

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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.