Arne Duncan to U.S. teacher training programs: Raise your standards

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan says several examples in Georgia point to the need for federal oversight of civil rights. (AJC File)

Arne Duncan is former U.S. U.S. Secretary of Education and Nonresident Senior Fellow in Governance StudiesBrown Center on Education Policy. In this column from the Brookings’ Brown Center Chalkboard, Duncan asks colleges of education to step up their game and their standards.

By Arne Duncan

The world’s strongest economy relies on a skilled and creative workforce. The world’s oldest democracy relies on an informed citizenry. We all know that teaching is a complex and challenging profession on a par with medicine, law, and engineering. Like those other fields, teachers save lives, advance the cause of justice and build stronger societies.

Yet, the system we have for training teachers lacks rigor, is out of step with the times, and is given to extreme grade inflation that leaves teachers unprepared and their future students at risk. According to a 2014 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, many of our biggest teacher training programs are twice as likely to graduate students with honors than other programs in the same academic settings.

The NCTQ report looked at more than 500 institutions of higher education, which annually graduate more than half of the country’s new teachers. It found that just 30 percent of all students graduate with honors compared to 44 percent of education majors. In 51 of these institutions, the number of education majors graduating with honors is twice as high as the other programs at the same schools.

For example, at Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania, 80 percent of the education students graduated with honors compared to 26 percent of all students, a gap of 54 points. At the University of Louisville in Kentucky, the gap is 49 points. At North Carolina Central University, the gap is 46 points. At Penn State in Harrisburg, the gap is 44 points. At Delaware State it’s 43 points. There are dozens of other examples of gaps in the 30’s and 20’s and hundreds in the teens.

There can only be two explanations for this unsettling phenomenon: either your teacher training programs are attracting an unusually gifted group of students or the standard for honors in education is too low. We know from other studies that it is not the first explanation.

The NCTQ report also looks at rigor and concludes that many of our teacher training programs are simply not giving our future teachers the training they need. Assignments are often vague and grading the results is extremely subjective. Too often, teachers in training are asked to share their philosophy about teaching certain kinds of kids but they are not asked to show specifics.

On the other hand, good teacher training programs challenge students with specific assignments. Say, for example, a student is asked to develop a lesson plan for fifth graders based on a specific standard and a specific curriculum, and adapted for a child with dyslexia. The results are much easier to evaluate.

Hunter College-CUNY, for example, requires their teacher candidates to record themselves teaching on video and then later document and analyze their own instruction; this allows professors to see both the instruction choices and the candidates’ analysis of their work. Doing so creates an environment of constant feedback and improvement.

In fact, at 62 of the institutions studied by NCTQ, the honors gap is reversed: a smaller proportion of teachers receive honors than do other students across campus.

There are other promising signs that your sector is trying to improve. Deans for Impact is a new organization committed to holding future teachers to a high standard, by supporting school leaders who are data-driven and outcomes-focused.

Seven years ago, I spoke at Columbia University’s Teacher College and challenged the sector to step up, to create revolutionary change. I applaud the positive steps some of you have taken in that direction but systemic change has yet to happen.

I’ve talked to thousands of teachers throughout my career and I can almost count on one hand the ones who said they were ready to teach on day one. Of course, there’s a learning curve in every career and a certain amount of on-the-job training is expected. But given the typical response, teacher preparation programs are not living up to their responsibility to train teachers, effectively costing students years of learning over their K-12 careers.

Lowering our expectations not only does a disservice to the teaching candidates in these programs, but also to the students they’ll soon teach. We owe it to them to challenge our future teachers. We should ensure that they’re held to high standards like engineering, business, and medical students, and we should only be giving the best grades to those teacher candidates who are most prepared for the classroom. The path to change begins with the will to change. And that starts with you.

 

Reader Comments 0

39 comments
Wascatlady
Wascatlady

There ARE some dreadfully poor programs out there in our own state.  It seems like to me, standards for admittance to teacher ed have gone down, and preparation for the real world of teaching is frequently not happening.


When I was an undergrad, you had to pass tests to sit for licensure.  You were interviewed a number of times, to be sure you could speak correctly.  You had to write in class, and the quality of your written expression was judged.  There were other evaluations, and this was BEFORE being admitted into the program!


I was fortunate because the school I attended put you in front of a class your 2nd term freshman year, before you were admitted into the professional study!  Each quarter you were in a class observing and trying out your wings, so it was no shock when you were student teaching.  I think many programs (some 40+ years later) are doing that now.



wafuy
wafuy

For example, at Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania, 80 percent of the education students graduated with honors compared to 26 percent of all students, a gap of 54 points. At the University of Louisville in Kentucky, the gap is 49 points. At North Carolina Central University, the gap is 46 points. At Penn State in Harrisburg, the gap is 44 points. At Delaware State it’s 43 points. There are dozens of other examples of gaps in the 30’s and 20’s and hundreds in the teens.









http://tinyurl.com/fastincom49  

FlaTony
FlaTony

From Georgia's chancellor and board of regents just a few years ago when I served on a panel for a university, "Students need a fall back degree." This message came to us when the panel moved to increase admission standards for teacher education programs.


Arne's use of NCTQ report is unfortunate. Their agenda is political and the report was generated using methods that were ridiculous. They did not conduct on-site reviews. They only reviewed information they found through on-line searches. Their "look-fors" were extremely biased. In other words, their own research lacked the kind of rigor they were looking for from the teacher education programs they were judging.

jerryeads
jerryeads

All well and good, and many schools of ed are working to up the bar. There are inhibiting forces, however, such as faculty quality (almost all of them were teachers - too often folks who didn't like the classroom and only taught for a few years before they went off to get an easy doctorate - apologies to all the truly fabulous faculty); revenue to the colleges - often the ed schools are cash cows for the university - the money that teacher candidates pay doesn't go to better their education but to support prestige areas that lose money; public education treats teachers like dirt (e.g., "lunch" is fifteen minutes while doing hall or cafeteria duty, just for one example); schools are often headed by people who hated teaching so they got into "management" - and these are the people who rate the quality of teachers???; all of those factors and more are apparently heading us for a fairly severe shortage as fewer and fewer people choose the profession as the population continues to grow.

That only barely touches the surface. Oh yes - ask Sully whether he could have plopped 1549 into the Hudson the day he got his pilot's license. 

redweather
redweather

"I’ve talked to thousands of teachers throughout my career and I can almost count on one hand the ones who said they were ready to teach on day one."


Got news for you  Arnie, law school grads would tell you the same thing.  Probably engineers as well. And if they didn't they'd be lying.

CSpinks
CSpinks

Are there enough "best and brightest" to populate all our professions, including Teaching?*


* I unashamedly consider Teaching a profession although I must 

reluctantly admit that many, if not most, folks admitted to it don't 

possess the knowledge, skills and attitudes characteristic of 

professionals.


When will we Teaching professionals start policing our profession? The 12th of Never?

Quint Bush
Quint Bush

Sure, but no one is listening to Duncan.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

Just look at Finland's requirements for teachers and how a total overhaul raised educational outcomes for all students. The price that was paid did mean that teachers are on the same level as doctors and lawyers, the training and mentoring is both rigorous and demanding. Teachers are given more autonomy and there is no teach to the test, there is an opportunity for broader and deeper learning opportunities, there is no TEACH FOR FINLAND or schools, specifically charter schools, where non-certified teachers are allowed to teach. Teachers are respected and given the autonomy they need to teach successfully. It was a worthwhile investment. Would we, in America, be prepared to make such an investment? 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

“We should ensure that they’re held to high standards like engineering, business, and medical students, and we should only be giving the best grades to those teacher candidates who are most prepared for the classroom.

Is Duncan unaware of supply and demand? Does he really believe that large numbers college students would choose a highly competitive, very rigorous teaching program rather than a medical, engineering, or business program that would pay twice as much? Is his column a joke?

MiloD
MiloD

@AvgGeorgian

You´re correct. Pretty much bottom of the barrel students in teacher schools. 

Starik
Starik

@MiloD @AvgGeorgian Not entirely.  I've encountered teachers who perform very, very well.  If only we could establish standards and get rid of the teachers who are not well educated themselves we could get somewhere.

Ed Danger Watson
Ed Danger Watson

I think he means prepare to stop teaching and prepare to compile more data and mind-numbing hours of useless paperwork on a daily basis. Also practice giving tests.

Robert Muzzillo
Robert Muzzillo

After at least ten years of blaming teachers for all of our school's shortcomings you would think that they might start looking at the role of the students.

Kristen Wood Garner
Kristen Wood Garner

But don't forget all the loosened regulations with regards to teacher certification the past 12 years. You must admit that is a factor even if minor.

Another comment
Another comment

99% of education majors would never even get accepted to Engineering Schools. My office had a North Carolina Centeral graduate just once what a disaster. I did not hire because the candidate could not answer basic questions. Another manager hired because he wanted to booster his EEO goody points on his rating and rued the day he did.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Another comment

If teacher pay equaled engineering pay, education schools could raise requirements as high as schools of engineering.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Another comment Oh, they don't need to raise the requirements of the good engineering schools or medical schools, or even law schools.  Teachers should take an academic degree in the subject they will teach, have decent grades, pass a proficiency test in the subject, then have a year of post grad work on education theory, technique, and practice teaching.

Astropig
Astropig

"We should ensure that they’re held to high standards like engineering, business, and medical students, and we should only be giving the best grades to those teacher candidates who are most prepared for the classroom...."


Good luck with that,Arn'. In a system that pays the best and worst teachers the same,the long term effect is to pull the entire edifice into mediocrity.That's why elites like Mr. Duncan send their progeny to elite private schools.


http://dailycaller.com/2015/07/10/arne-duncan-loves-common-core-for-your-kids-but-not-his/

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig

We agree on this Astro. Duncan sends his kids to elite private schools, but wants teachers to meet high level professional career program requirements for half the pay outcome of those other professional programs.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Astropig Chicken or egg. It would be a shame to raise pay without raising standards, and we need to raise teacher pay to improve teacher quality. 


By the way, APig, since when are business students among the academic elite?

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

Wow! No one thought of that before! wow, he's a genius.

newsphile
newsphile

So long as social promotion exists, a standard has no meaning.

Pbae
Pbae

True teachers teach from the heart.  No program can teach that.

Starik
Starik

@Pbae That's fine, but shouldn't teachers have a reasonably high level of understanding ofthe subject they're teaching?  How do you teach what you don't know?

Kay Draper Hutchinson
Kay Draper Hutchinson

Continues to be a jerk who exhibits disdain for teachers, students and their families, and public schools. He is working for the privatizing, destructive forces.

Tom Green
Tom Green

When you need millions of warm bodies to replace all of the people you've driven out of education, lowering the standards is the obvious solution.

BetterDog
BetterDog

Mr. Common Core.  What a crook. 

PJ25
PJ25

He's simply stating the obvious because for decades we've known run of the mill education degrees were gimme degrees just like interior design, political science, psychology, etc. 

Andrea Griffin
Andrea Griffin

This man has a bachelor 's degree, and was probably not fully qualified to be the U.S. Secretary of Education. He represents a downward trend for the highest educational position in the nation.

Tom Green
Tom Green

He's just one of thousands of unqualified people calling the shots in education. How many professors have been in a K-12 room in the past 5 years?