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.