Columbia Teachers College in New York City is one of the oldest and best-known teacher preparation institutions in the country. Selection as president there requires some degree of skill and experience, to put it mildly. And, Arthur Levine is a past president at Columbia.
More recently, Levine has authored a number of remarkably candid reports about the condition of education in the US.
His Educating School Teachers report identifies many severe problems with the way K to 12 school teachers are educated in the country, as even a review of the report’s table of contents reveals. Topics include:
- Teacher Education in Flux
- The Pursuit of Irrelevance
- Inadequate Preparation
- A Curriculum in Disarray
- A Disconnected Faculty
- Low Admission Standards
- Insufficient Quality Control
- Disparities in Institutional Quality
- Exemplary Teacher Education Programs
- Educating the Teachers America Needs.
That pretty well sums it up!
Levine also takes strong shots at the crowd who conduct research in the education area in his Educating Researchers report.
In this report Levine writes:
“This study is unlike any other I have conducted. It quickly became apparent that in today’s highly charged environment, those interviewed for this study had less interest in “truth telling” than in defending their positions.”
Talk about candor – Levine is steeped in it.
All of this makes comments Levine made last summer on NPR even more interesting.
“Most education schools have such low admission standards and are of such poor quality, Levine says, it would be easier to replace them than repair them.”
Hmmm. As I look at the recent rather disappointing education data from Kentucky’s 2014-15 school year (such as sinking college-going, reports from college professors that incoming freshmen are less ready, obvious evidence of growing achievement gaps that even legislators now acknowledge, and even an indication that our senior state educators really don’t understand how to administer a standards-based education system), I realize that even if the Common Core State Standards were superior (they are not), nothing really magnificent is going to happen in our classrooms if teachers manning them are not up to snuff either due to inadequate preparation or unsuitability for the profession. And, it should be the job of our education schools to deal with those issues.
Certainly, experience from charter schools and private schools shows that an education school preparation isn’t necessary to create excellent teachers. Both of these school choice alternatives have employed non-education school trained teachers with good results. In fact, some of the alternative certification teachers in our traditional public school system are also reported to be doing very well in the classroom.
So, maybe Levine is on to something. It might be time to take a hard look at how Kentucky’s education schools are operating – who do they accept as teacher candidates, how do they do research and decide on exactly how to train those candidates, and how well do our Ed Schools actually do that training?
After all, when someone of Levine’s character and background is now talking about totally replacing the existing education schools, only the very foolish would fail to at least pay attention.