Profs: Edu. criticisms do not apply to College
By Marina Villeneuve
Published on Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Arguing that the United States’ university-based teacher programs need “revolutionary change,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan criticized the programs for failing to prepare students to teach and for having too few resources in an address at Columbia University last week. Dartmouth education professors, however, said that Duncan’s criticisms largely do not apply to the College’s Teacher Education Program because of its small size, its grounding in the liberal arts and the opportunities the program provides for hands on experience.
Duncan criticized the university-based teacher programs for failing to adequately prepare students to teach in the classroom, noting that the programs’ graduates often they lack adequate content knowledge. He cited a 2006 study conducted by Arthur Levine, former president of the Columbia Teachers College, that found that the country lacks empirical evidence on what determines the effectiveness of teacher education programs.
According to the report, 61 percent of alumni of teacher education programs nationwide reported that the training they received “did not prepare them adequately” in terms of hands-on teaching and use of student performance assessment techniques.
Dartmouth education professor Andrew Garrod, who directs the College’s program, said that the curriculum of Dartmouth’s system prepares students well, highlighting the role of a liberal arts education in ensuring that teachers have sufficient content knowledge.
“A liberal arts background is an absolutely priceless preparation for the classroom,” Garrod said, adding that Dartmouth’s curriculum allows students to bring multiple perspectives to any situation.
A successful training program must include a combination of theory and hands-on experience, education professor Michelle Tine said.
“Anyone can create and execute a lesson plan,” Tine said. “Great teachers create and execute lesson plans that are rooted in their knowledge of student-learning and teaching methods.”
Garrod also pointed to the program’s requirement that participants spend at least one term student-teaching in an Upper Valley school under the guidance of education department faculty.
Several of the most gifted teachers in the Upper Valley participate in the partnerships, Garrod said.
Dartmouth’s teaching program in the Marshall Islands, in which students and alumni teach English as a second language, also helps students become more innovative teachers, Garrod said, as they must develop their own teaching materials.
The Marshall Island schools have few textbooks and almost no curriculum, requiring teachers to become more creative and adaptable, according to the program’s web site. The program also provides participants with the opportunity to study cross-cultural education and develop bilingual proficiency.
Garrod said that another of Duncan’s criticisms — that institutions often do not provide enough resources for teacher education programs — does not apply to Dartmouth’s program because of its small size.
“Historically, education schools were the institution that got no respect, from the Oval Office to the provost’s office, from university presidents to secretaries of education,” Duncan said in his speech. “From the onset of education schools a century ago, they have been beset by skeptics who said that teachers were simply born and not made.”
Garrod said that Dartmouth’s administration has been supportive of the Teacher Education Program, adding that students who return to Dartmouth after graduating to do student-teaching can do so tuition free.
While there are enough resources to support 20 students in the program, Garrod said, only eight are currently enrolled.
The education department does not have enough resources, however, to support an education major, Garrod said.
In his speech, Duncan also highlighted the need for more teachers, citing the U.S. Education Department’s 2014 Projections of Education Statistics study, which found that 1 million new teaching positions must be filled by 2014.
“It is important to emphasize that the challenge to our schools is not just in a looming teacher shortage, but rather a shortage of great teachers in the schools and communities where they are needed most,” Duncan said.
Several education experts interviewed by The Dartmouth said that attitudes towards the teaching profession must change before the nation’s need for highly qualified and effective teachers can be filled.
“The teaching profession in this country doesn’t always get the respect it should,” Garrod said.
Dartmouth’s Teacher Education Program has so few students because of general perceptions about the teaching profession, Benjamin Kahn ’11, a member of the Dartmouth’s Secondary Certification Program, said.
“The lack of salaries and respect is a drawback [to entering the teacher profession],” Kahn said. “There are intelligent, motivated students who think teaching is a noble profession and might reconsider teaching if salaries were higher.”