NYU Panel (Part 1): Can We Graduate Teachers Adequate to Teach the Common Core?

For the past fourteen years the Steinhardt School of Education at NYU has been sponsoring themed panels of educators/practitioners on a wide range of topics.

The topic d’annee: The Common Core.

The first two panels: King/Suransky and a “national perspective” were, let us say, desultory.

The panel this morning looked disconnected, the leader of a new organization to drive reform/restructure college teacher prep programs (James Cibulka – NCATE), the primary writer of the brand new Common Core Science Standards for English Language Learners (Okhee Lee) and a middle principal in the South Bronx (Ramon Gonzalez). A week ago AFT President Randi Weingarten was added to the panel.

The panel, surprisingly, was excellent.

Principal Gonzalez painted a picture that is commonplace in the South Bronx and other high poverty neighborhoods – 50% of teachers are alternatively certified, (TFA and Teaching Fellows) and 40% of principals have three years or less of experience. Gonzalez is enthusiastic about the Common Core – with caveats: too many dense standards, difficulty of embedding a common language and common assessments, need to recruit teachers with content knowledge and increasing common planning time for teachers. Gonzalez admitted the kids were not adequately prepared for the rigor of the tests, and lacked the required endurance.

The subtext of the principal’s comments: we may not be preparing teachers adequately for the complexities of teaching the Common Core standards within a rigorous curriculum.

James Cibulka, the president of National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) rolled out a new organization, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), that will be “accrediting” the 900 teacher education college programs across the nation. Cibulka referenced the 1910 Flexner Report,

Flexner made the following recommendations:
1. Reduce the number of medical schools (from 155 to 31) and poorly trained physicians;
2. Increase the prerequisites to enter medical training;
3. Train physicians to practice in a scientific manner and engage medical faculty in research;
4. Give medical schools control of clinical instruction in hospitals
5. Strengthen state regulation of medical licensure

Teacher education programs are currently traditional classroom-based courses with a lightly supervised student teaching experience and low admission standards.

CAEP is calling for sweeping changes, upgrading admission standards, “clinically-rich” programs, meaning the classroom experiences closely tied to classroom instruction, and transparently tracking the effective of graduates in school settings.

New York State is responding by requiring sweeping changes in both teacher prep and school building leader programs.

One of the major differences in the high achieving education nations and the USA is the quality of new teachers. In Finland only one in ten applicants are accepted for teacher preparation programs – in our nation – almost all applicants are accepted. Colleges face a challenge: teacher education programs are highly profitable for colleges, regardless of the number of anticipated vacancies in schools. Teacher education and school building leader programs are churning out candidates in an era in which jobs are shrinking.

CAEP does not have the authority to terminate programs – that power is held by states; however, poor assessments of state-approved programs will certainly be embarrassing to states and colleges.

The Flexner Report changed medical education dramatically and created the finest medical education program in the world.

If we want to change the quality of teachers we must both recruit abler candidates and retain teachers, the Research Alliance for NYC Schools finds,

Among middle school teachers who entered their school during the last decade, more than half left that school within three years…

The Common Core may or may not be a “sticky idea,” it may change instruction and raise the bar for students, it may create waves of better prepared ”college and career ready” students. It will not happen if we do not upgrade the quality of teachers entering the profession and provide supports to retain teachers.

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7 responses to “NYU Panel (Part 1): Can We Graduate Teachers Adequate to Teach the Common Core?

  1. Laughable! Truly laughable. Right now the pool of entering medical school students is weakening as college grads discover that they can make a much better living with FAR less training time and tuition spent going into finance, or some such.

    If the education standards are to be raised, THE SALARIES must go UP! The only reason there is a reasonable current supply of entering “educators” is the poor economy. As that clears the grade schools will be once again faced with little to choose from.

    Currently those entering teaching mostly leave within three years having gotten a paycheck and a free graduate degree. Many have had enough of creating lesson plans and grading papers at night and the impossible task of dealing out the lack of student effort, and the student and parent attitude that merely “showing up” merits great grades.

    Entering teachers waiting twenty years to achieve maximum (certainly not outstanding) salary does not fly in 2013.

    Now conflate those working conditions and deferred pay with the current idea that anyone can teach and that there should be NO entering standards for educators–an idea being practiced for the better part of twenty years by Teach For America and recently by governors like Florida’s Bush, and Louisiana’s Jindal among others.

    That corrupted thinking, along with a huge PR campaign funded by the educational carpetbaggers, should lead you to understand the reaction encapsulated in my first three words.

  2. The key to quality instruction has never been about money. For years we heard that the better teachers headed to the suburbs because they paid more. Nonsense! Schools in the suburbs were held to a higher achievement bar because their constituents came from upper middle class families who had a profound voice in how their school districts performed and in selecting those administrators who knew how to lead their districts and schools. In NYC as in any other school district anywhere, quality instruction is determined by school leaders and school district leaders. The ability of an in school administrator to be able to talk teacher tradecraft and set out strong PD/SD programs linked to that schools success. The primary function of a school leader is to set the tone(provide and atmosphere) wherebye a teacher can teach and students can learn. What are the elements of that atmosphere? School discipile and tone.Strong SD and PD programs lined up with that school’s mission statement. Recognition of achievement programs (for students and teachers). Codes of acceptable professional and student behaviors. Strong alliances with parents and community……Money has nothing to do with it! Its all about leadership.With regard to assessing particular schools, the first thing I would look at is the turnover rate. Are teachers lining up to fill vacancies or are they trying to increase them.

    • I disagree! It’s all about an administrator having a hiring choice. Most of the time I was in NYC, the system opened with 3-5000 vacancies. I saw teachers hired from the Caribbean who had degrees—in animal husbandry. You didn’t even need to fog a mirror in some cases. Give a hiring person a choice and, unless they don’t know anything themselves, you’ll get a more skilled hiree. Now having said that, and assuming ( you know what is said about that) that the person has some “scholarship”, then the conditions you describe obtain.

      From about 1990 until 2003 there was not one licensed math teacher in a Bronx middle school or JHS. That’s ALL about money. The ‘burbs had more applicants than they needed. In the late 1960’s NYC teachers were the best paid in the area. True the class sizes were much larger and there was a commute, but there was a reasonable chance of getting a qualified hire. From the mid eighties onward there was about $10k more to start in the ‘burbs.

  3. Slightly off topic, but even the principal mentioned above discussed common planning time. Can someone answer why professional development/support/common planning time is not NEGOTIATED in our next contract? Ours is the only profession where the adults do not meet. We do not have daily “meetings” like many other organizations. Why can’t raises, extending the school day slightly, and reorganizing the school day with common planning time, professional development, and new teacher support be part of our negotiations?

    • Raises and health benefits are and will always be matters taken up in the collective bargaining process. Common Planning time exists in those school where Principals understand the tenants of good organizing and a strong PD/SD program of which common planning time is vital.If you are in a school where that is not going on, I would be inclined to think that that school is probably under achieveing or failing. FYI staff and professional development activites have been negotiated and stipulated as “must” happenings in all schools at every level. Also, in those schools where common planning time is provided for, it is uaually done once a week either on a subject friendly basis or a grade friendly basis.

  4. There has been considerable research on why teachers leave (2009 Report: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/1001270_teacher_attrition.pdf, as recently as March, 2013:(http://media.ranycs.org/2013/002) school leadership, school climate, collegiality were the leading reasons – salary was not on the list. The 2008 recession and jobs collapse, the increased popularity of teaching, the almost daily news stories and the alternative routes – TFA and Teaching Fellows – have all created a large pool of certified teachers seeking jobs in a shrinking marketplace. Suburban school districts are faced with the 2% property tax cap, declining student enrollments and are struggling, Layoffs are commonplace and the future is bleak – basic expenses increasing faster then the property tax cap limitations – negotiating contracts in this climate is extremely difficult.

    As far as negotiating common planning time, etc., in this climate, the city is asking for mandatory blood donations – cuts in health plans, imposition of lesser pension tiers and total and complete “managerial discretion” in all matters educational. A new mayor and a new chancellor may be more open to working with the union and creating more collegial workplaces.

  5. Pingback: NYU Panel (Part 1): Can We Graduate Teachers Adequate to Teach the Common Core? ← NPE News Briefs

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