Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to the fall teacher education conference of the Consortium of State Organizations for Texas Teacher Education (CSOTTE). It was quite an experience primarily because, probably needless to say, much of my evaluation of colleges of education is at extreme variance with the audience of approximately 400 deans, associate deans, and education curriculum directors.
What strikes me most as a disconnect with the teacher education establishment (and I must be careful here not to overly generalize) is that it seems to recognize no real connection between teacher preparation and student performance, nor any responsibility for the under-performance of public education. The collective attitude, usually implied but often expressed, is “we do the best we can with the raw material we’re given to work with”. The truth is closer to this: Traditional educator preparation leadership is totally immersed in the shibboleths of “discovery” or “learner-centered” philosophy in learning, “academic freedom” in pedagogy, resistance to “teaching to the test”, and opposition to competitive value-added evaluation of performance and accreditation of programs.
I have been repeatedly reminded that a public school is not a business and cannot be managed as such. I accept that there are major differences, but I am equally sure that public education and the institutions and programs that supply its management are not immune to the incentives that drive human nature and performance in business and other walks of life. I am further convinced that the next phase of education reform must include radical reform of teacher preparation and teaching methods inside the classroom. This will require a re-evaluation of many of the most cherished “sacred cows” of the education establishment. It is long overdue.