Taking College Out of the Teacher-Training Process

”I don’t think the higher education programs are going away, and that wouldn’t be my intention.” So says Shael Polakow-Suransky of New York City’s Department of Education.

Nice, but Education Departments are not likely to be too happy with the intention of moving teacher training from certification programs in colleges and universities to in-house programs (though these would not lead to certificates).

When I returned to teaching (after a hiatus of more than a decade), one of the first things I noticed was how improved were the teacher-training programs I came into contact with. Students were really learning how to teach–instead of simply meeting benchmarks for certification, as they had been doing in the 1970s and 1980s in way too many places. In fact, they were coming out of their programs better prepared to manage education effectively than many of their senior colleagues and supervisors.

This, of course, is one of the reasons many young teachers leave the profession after only a few years: They know how to teach but aren’t allowed to do so. Instead, they have to conform to plans centered around meeting benchmarks on standardized tests–something completely different.

It doesn’t surprise me, then, to see that New York City’s public schools are less than enthused about the new teachers coming out of programs in Education in colleges and universities. They haven’t been trained in teaching-to-the-test. Saying that they can’t find enough graduates to fill their positions is, to me, something of a red herring put forward by the Department of Education. “We don’t want to have to depend on a university in order to train our teachers,” he [Polakow-Suransky] said this afternoon. “Already, we’re having to retrain many teachers when they come into the system because they don’t have the skills that they need.” No. The problem is they are real teachers.

Weakening teacher-certification programs by authorizing in-house alternatives does little more than created a closed loop within our schools, making sure no new ideas or outside influences will be allowed in. When teacher-training is expected to have happened before the teacher is employed, new ideas can infiltrate. This new way, all we get is the old–and even the mistaken–amplified.

One thought on “Taking College Out of the Teacher-Training Process

  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve spent years trying to understand the easy capitulation of teacher educators to the meme that they are doing a bad job. From NCATE to CAEP, to Stanford AACTE and the edTPA, there has been this ready and rapid agreement when confronted by the neoliberal assault demanding more accountability and standards. Our professional organizations have jumped at the chance to agree that the purveyors of this narrative are right and we need only find the ‘best practices’ and then correct our poor performance. In the meantime, while we are counting student outcome data and recording videos to be sent to Pearson Inc., foundations courses are disappearing, ‘field experience’ is taking the place of coursework, student teachers are learning in fast track high stress environments that lead to reproductive practices, and NCATE has told us not to use the words ‘social justice education.’
    But why the ready compliance and easy shift to complicity? I have a few converging theories, but your post helps me articulate one more clearly. Somehow, the image in my mind is of the abused wife thinking that if she just loses a few pounds, has the house clean before he gets home, puts a little bit less salt in the food, maybe she won’t get beat up this time.
    The work of teaching and learning is human work, is complicated, intellectual, emotional, theoretical, political, social, philosophical, uncertain: art. We need to claim our work for what it is and kick the dehumanizing profiteers out of the house.

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