The other day I watched Andrea Mitchell interview Arne Duncan. It’s always difficult for me to listen to authorities on teaching who have never been teachers, or who have never even studied what it takes to be a teacher. When they bloviate what the government needs to do to make good teachers, I want to ask how do they know? Unless you have walked in their shoes….
I also don’t think Arne and the Obama administration are paying any attention to what really keeps parents up at night when it comes to their children’s schooling. They are focused on all the wrong things.
But I realized a long time ago that today’s reality concerning teaching and education is warped. So I just try to make sense of it, and this is my attempt to decipher Arne’s gibberish (it is critical) about teacher preparation and the colleges of education.
First and foremost…When they say they want to overhaul undergraduate teacher preparatory programs, my guess is they really want to get rid of these schools. They will do it like they get rid of teachers in real public schools—tying success to test scores.
A teacher’s success, they say, will be determined by the kind of future scores their students get on the test. Forget the controversy about Value-Added Measurement (VAM)…their mind is made up. When Arne mentions state flexibility I don’t get the feeling he’s worried. State controversy about VAM scores and teaching is just a little bump in the road for them—but maybe provides some hope for teachers. We’ll see.
Arne says, “Every child deserves a highly effective teacher and every teacher deserves to be well-trained.” This is really re-mashing the potatoes isn’t it? He is channeling the previous ed. sec. Margaret Spellings, who also was never a teacher (but she was a sub I think). To which I must ask, was there ever a time when this county did not want well-prepared teachers?
Still, I find it odd, that in this whole interview Teach for America types were not discussed. Especially when Arne chatters about the vast number of teachers who tell him they don’t feel prepared. Who were these teachers? Arne, I hate to tell you, but maybe you were talking to TFA recruits.
I’m not saying that well-prepared teachers don’t dis their ed. programs. We are all guilty of this and should be extra careful about it. Everyone knows ed. schools need improvement, but do we want them eliminated?
When Andrea asks Arne about funding he talks right away about grants—not genuine funding to states in need. Grants are a cheap and easy way to make ed. schools do as they are told. It is what Race to the Top is all about too. Grants and removal of or decreased actual state and local funding destroys school districts, because the grants are used for corporate endeavors.
Arne’s reference to having teachers ready to teach in the classroom day one by getting a lot of practice is right. He likens it to preparation for medical students. Sure. Teachers, like doctors, should do the necessary coursework then be interns or practice teachers.
But career teachers always followed this set-up. After coursework, they had several months of practice teaching—student teaching—before they were allowed to teach. Once again, is he referring to Teach for America with their 5 weeks of prep?
He also bad mouths future teachers’ learning history, philosophy, and psychology of education. I find any discussion of suppressing information, especially these subjects, quite dangerous.
Certainly, teacher colleges could reframe some of what they do, but I don’t think Arne’s talking about this. The Obama administration, and the USDOE, is onboard with the fast-track groups and transferring funds over to for-profit entities. I’ve never seen them stand up for any causes championed by the teachers’ unions. Have you?
When Andrea starts talking about Finland—this always gets everyone excited—Arne turns quickly to South Korea and “Nation Building.” Those words trouble me enough for another post (I don’t want to digress).
But hear this. Our country knows how Finland works their education program and the way their teachers are revered. They have chosen to disregard it. And while it is true that teachers are the backbone of a country—a very serious factor in what its citizens will know—Arne and Co. are working overtime to get rid of teaching professionals for a fast-track cheaper workforce.
This is all connected to Common Core State Standards which are scripted and lack any variance when it comes to student differences. Anyone can learn how to do it. Better yet—and this is coming if it isn’t already here—stick programs on the computers and don’t have any real teachers. Cha-Ching!
Arne says people are “playing politics” when it comes to Common Core. Probably this is the biggest kink in the machine for them. When the Tea Party sits down to sip soup with liberals you know it has to make Arne and Co. at least a little nervous.
Andrea’s pointed questions about college loan debt were given short shrift by Duncan, and they both concluded stressing college “access for all” which is for me more re-mashed potato talk.
The take away? You will continue to get teachers who are not the kind of teachers you want. The good ones will be fired due to poor test scores, or they will quit because they can’t stand it anymore. And teacher ed. programs will convert to just making assessment…or nothing.
Shameful for a country like ours…but there it is.