Survey Teachers education abysmal
American colleges and universities do
such a poor job of training the nation's future teachers and school
administrators that nine of every 10 principals consider the graduates
unprepared for what awaits them in the classroom, a new survey has found.
Nearly half the elementary- and
secondary-school principals surveyed said the curriculums at schools of
education, whether graduate or undergraduate, lacked academic rigor and were
outdated, at times using materials decades older than the children whom teachers
are now instructing.
Beyond that, more than 80 percent of
principals said the education schools were too detached from what went on at
local elementary and high schools, a factor that made for a rift between
educational theory and practice.
"I thought there were problems in the
field," said Arthur E. Levine, president of Teachers College at Columbia
University, who is to release the findings in a report today. "But I didn't
realize the depth of the problems."
In the report, Levine - who when
interviewed described the program at his own school as strong but "absolutely
not" ideal - said he and other experts who worked on the study had focused their
efforts on finding education schools capable of producing excellent principals,
superintendents and other administrators. They found none in the entire country.
Much of the problem, the report said,
stems from what Levine called "the consumer mentality" dominating the nation's
education schools. All states, and nearly all public school districts within
them, award higher salaries to teachers who take additional courses and earn
One result of this has been an "army of
unmotivated" educators looking for extra credits "in the easiest ways possible"
during their off hours, the report said.
The universities, in turn, capitalize on
this demand by viewing their education schools as "cash cows," setting low
admissions standards and offering "quickie degrees" instead of investing in a
quality curriculum, the report said.
In fact, while criticism has often focused
on the questionable academic qualifications of many teachers, the report found
that school administrators typically had substantially lower scores on the
Graduate Record Examination than the teachers they supervise.
Principals and superintendents need to be
better trained than ever, the report contends, a necessity that puts added
pressure on already faltering education schools: Federal law is demanding that
students make measurable academic progress; where local districts once set the
bar, more states have adopted uniform exit exams that students must pass in
order to graduate; and the population itself is changing, with more immigrants
whose English is limited.
But others contend that these same
conditions are precisely why education schools cannot be held wholly responsible
for the failures of their graduates.
In the era of federal demands for quick
and consistent test-based results from even the most troubled districts, some
defenders argue that education schools have little power to set the tone of what
goes on in the nation's classrooms, and therefore are often inappropriately
blamed for it.
"We've got to blame someone, so we blame
the education schools - easy target," said Theodore R. Sizer, former dean of the
Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Though these schools are far from
exemplary, "we're asked to prepare people to go out into a field where their
chances of survival are limited; it's like training kamikaze pilots."