Teaching the Teachers: Improving Ed Schools

In recent weeks, the topic of teacher education has been picking up steam. After spending years (or decades) focused on how to improve student achievement, many are now starting to see that real improvement can’t happen until we fundamentally address how prospective educators are prepared and supported for their roles as teachers of record.

This week, Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk offers up a terrific collection of stories examining the issues, including:

States Slow to Close Faltering Teacher Ed. Programs, which looks at how our national quest for improved education and improved educational outcomes hasn’t quite reached those overseeing our ed schools;

Disparate Teacher-Prep Curricula Complicate Accountability Efforts, which demonstrates the continued challenges in demanding effective teacher ed efforts; and

N.Y. College’s Experiences Shows Conflicts Around Ed. School Closures, which shows how all of these policy debates play out, or fail to, in the real world.

All three pieces are worth the read, particularly the examination of Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Anyone who has been in higher ed knows that the tale told by Sawchuk there is similar to many others around the nation.

In his States Slow piece, Sawchuk quotes Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and President Emeritus of Teachers College Columbia University, on the current state of the American ed school. Levine rightly notes: “I haven’t visited a state where the political leaders are enthusiastic about the quality of ed. schools. They have the capacity to do a reauthorization of their existing programs, and they haven’t done it.”

We all seem to be good at pointing out the problems. It’s what we do with the capacity (and power) to improve that is the ultimate measure. This series from Sawchuk may very well serve as the canary in the coal mine, with meaningful “reform” coming to teacher education in the near future.

So Student Journalists Shall Lead Us

Earlier this fall, I wrote on the brave stance the student journalists of the Playwickian took to stand up for journalistic ethics and protect their beliefs on what was right, as both students and as human beings.

I had never met these kids. I had never read their newspaper. But I was taken by their crusade and their commitment. I believed in them. So I supported them, both on the pages of Eduflack and financially.

That support was rewarded this week, as I received a letter from the staff of the Playwickian. These terrific journalists wrote (in a handwritten note):

When we began this conversation about our mascot, we were unaware of the difference we could make. But our stance has strengthened as we have overcome every roadblock our administration & community have made.

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of a “Redskin” mascot, you have to applaud these Pennsylvania student journalists for reminding us the role of a free press, the responsibility of a media watchdog, and the impact the media can play as a moral compass. These journalists remind us of what our nation sought when we established a free press and of what we hope from a 21st century media. If each of these editors has a byline in a decade, the media will be in a good place.

Check out their full letter below.




The Courage to Listen

As we continue to debate the future of public education, this is an important lesson to consider. Too often, education reformers seek to show they are the smartest people in the room, the folks with all of the answers. We can forget the value of a diversity of opinion and of experience.

It isn’t just what we know or think, it is about those that are affected and those who have come before is. Winston Churchill has it right.