Levine, Mathews on teacher ed programs

I don’t know if this is Halloween-related, but opinion pieces on Teacher Education Programs, by Art Levine and by Jay Mathews, were published and syndicated today (Oct 31, 2006).

Jay Mathews’ column for The Washington Post reports various responses to Art Levine’s analysis, which is summarized in his opinion piece published today (linked here: in The Boston Globe).

Levine’s column reflects the critique of teacher education programs that he elaborated in Educating School Teachers, a report released September 18, 2006. There’s been a lot of defensiveness in reactions to this report, which seems to have been widely regarded as hostile to teacher education programs at colleges and universities. Here’s the much-quoted “sound bite” in his column today:

Teacher education, like the Wild West’s Dodge City, is unruly and chaotic.

As reported in Jay Mathews’ column,

Other critics have suggested replacing ed schools with training institutes in school districts. Some call for an expansion of Teach for America, which puts young college graduates into the classroom with minimal preparation and lets them learn on the job.

It would be a mistake, though, to cast Levine as an enemy of university-based teacher education (he was, after all, president of Teachers College at Columbia University). Levine is not one of those who sees all teacher ed programs as uniformly worthless–an attitude reflected in this observation, quoted in the Mathews piece, by Stanford’s David Labaree:

Institutionally, the ed school is the Rodney Dangerfield of higher education; it don’t get no respect. The ed school is the butt of jokes in the university, where professors portray it as an intellectual wasteland.

As Mathews notes from the September report:

Levine also concluded that ed schools that grant doctorates have a stronger track record than those that don’t. The latter schools, which award degrees no higher than the master’s level, produce most of the nation’s teachers. … Levine proposed expanding teacher training programs at those universities, which are more expensive and selective.

Levine himself writes in today’s column:

Research universities tend to put teacher education on a lesser footing than most other fields. They must assume greater responsibility for teacher education, expanding their programs. States will have to invest in that expansion.

And he concludes:

We need to end the old argument about whether teaching is a profession like law and medicine, requiring substantial education before one enters practice, or a craft like journalism to be learned on the job.

Teaching is a profession. It requires deep content knowledge, a familiarity with ways to teach that knowledge effectively, and an understanding of how young people learn and grow.

Levine says education needs to be supported like other professions, but that’s no excuse for not making improvements where they’re needed now.

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One Comment

  1. Barbara Curry
    Posted November 2, 2006 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Interesting perspectives Tony. Thanks for sharing it.


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