July 04, 2003

Can Education Schools Be Saved?

Can Education Schools Be Saved? was the title of a one-day event at the American Enterprise Institute on June 9, 2003. Among the contributors were George K. Cunningham of the University of Louisville, KT, Lisa Graham Keegan of the Education Leaders Council, and J. E. Stone of East Tennessee State University (and founder of the Education Consumers ClearingHouse).

From the Remarks by George Cunningham:

There are two major competing philosophies in education. One asserts that teachers should focus on increasing their students academic achievement. The other dismisses the importance of academic achievement and instead defines good teaching as the creation of a classroom atmosphere that eschews explicit instruction in favor of giving responsibility for learning to the students. The two approaches are incompatible and there is really no way to create a compromise between the two. The question left unanswered is who gets to decide between the two. Legislatures, governors, and the federal government through NCLB have declared that academic achievement should be paramount. The faculties of education schools and the national organizations that support them have decided otherwise. We will have to await the outcome of this contest, but it looks like the education schools already are ahead on points.

Closing recommendations from the Remarks by John E. Stone:

1. As you make decisions about teacher training and certification, bear in mind that colleges of education have a vision of teaching and learning that is at odds with the public's educational priorities. They have revised and reformed themselves many times over the decades, but the outcome has always been the same--another permutation of the same basic doctrines.

2. The ability of a teacher to produce achievement is not something that the colleges should be trusted to judge for themselves. If policymakers want colleges of education to respect the public's priorities, they will have to independently audit the student learning gains produced by newly minted teachers. Contrary to what is often assumed, it is possible to fairly and objectively judge this outcome. Tennessee has been doing so for the past 10 years.

3. The colleges of education need competition. Their virtual monopoly on training and certification has not well served the public. I think the Department of Education's emphasis on the subject-matter preparation of teachers is a step in the right direction. The key issue, however, is to allow individuals to become teachers without having to undergo training in the untested and often fanciful practices that are too often taught in schools of education.

A contributor on the other side was David Imig of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. He had the misfortune that day of being very much in the news in a negative way in connection with the leak of the ABCTE teacher test, and his remarks were delivered for him.

This seems a good occasion to remind readers of another recent article in the spririt of the contributions by Cunningham and Stone. The article is Ed Schools in Crisis, by Martin Kozloff (October 2002).

Posted by Bas Braams at July 4, 2003 08:09 PM