Monday, March 22, 2010

Teacher Training


  1. I agree. I went through ARC (alternative route to education) which is a full summer of intensive training and student teaching, and 1/2 a school year of close mentoring. ARC candidates also had to have experience in training/education, and working with children. They are also all second career and more experienced.

    While many Teach For America teachers are good, the big problem is that they leave after 2-3 years and we are back to needing more teachers. We need to attract more teachers to teaching who will stay.

  2. The presumption that a K-12 teacher can be trained in five weeks is utterly absurd. It's like training individuals to be fast food restaurant workers. This is an assembly line process, not professional development. It's also a process with a high expectation of failure. I would imagine that the products of this program are being placed in the most at-risk environments were attrition is a problem.

  3. I'm of the opinion of Ira Socol here:

    "Teach for America is a “colonial project.” It is a “missionary project.” It begins with the basic premise that the solution for the underclass in America is to make them ‘as much like’ rich white folks as possible. When you listen to the TFA leadership, they don’t really talk about “education,” probably because they don’t really believe in education. They talk about “leadership” instead. If they believed in education they would see education as important on the path to effective teaching, an idea they specifically reject, replacing it with the thought that since TFA corps members represent the elites (or, religiously, the “elect”), all they have to do is “lead” the downtrodden out of poverty."

  4. I would say unfair; a teacher with five weeks of training is unlikely to kill anyone, unlike a pilot or doctor with only five weeks of training. As important as a good education is, having one incompetent teacher is never a death sentence.

    *Disclaimer* I am a former TFA teacher.

    @Dave: Although I myself am no longer a classroom teacher, the overall retention rate for TFA teachers is about the same as for traditionally trained teachers.

    @marksrightbrain: This is true. Unfortunately, after completing a Master's in education, I would say I probably learned more in my five week training period. If the general state of teacher education wasn't in such a sorry state, I think that shortening the time would be inexcusable- however, in practice the more time you spend in traditional teacher education the more time you have wasted.

    @Chris Fritz: While I think there are legitimate concerns about how TFA includes (or doesn't include) the students and teachers in the communities in which corps members teach as part of the effort to reform schools, Ira Socol's arguments are misleading at best. The "Teaching as Leadership" framework has more to do with leveraging the commonalities between effective teachers and other effective leaders than anything about "leading the downtrodden out of poverty." There has never been any "premise" of TFA related to making anyone "as much like rich white folks as possible." And claiming that people in the TFA organization "don't talk about" or "believe in education" is absurd and insulting. You have every right to disagree with the particular methods, but questioning the beliefs or motives of other people who are trying to provide students with the best education they know how to is inflammatory and counterproductive.

  5. Thank you for this smart and thought-provoking graphic post. What comes to my mind is how poorly my own, and many other traditional teacher-training programs actually prepare teachers. I think the key here is that we need to follow the lead of other professions in some ways. For instance, future doctors have residencies and instructional rounds that are a part of a universally-known and clearly defined program. Most teachers agree, the real learning happens with when educators are at school, not a university so I’m not opposed to reducing the time teachers are in preparation. I am in favor however, of changing teacher preparation to look more like other professions where they engage in an apprenticeship, mentor, or residency-type program to become effective.

  6. In Pennsylvania state universities, the pre-service teacher ed program, especially for elementary and special ed, is rigorous and includes quite a bit of field experience. The student teaching semester is intense and very demanding. The private college pre-service programs in my state, I have to say, are something else entirely, and not up to the standard of the state universities, in my estimation. I knew of some private college students who weren't required to submit daily lesson plans and who weren't familiar with the state education standards.