Education: An industry of mediocrity

View 779 Sunday, June 23, 2013

Super Moon tonight.


In 1983 Nobel laureate Glen T. Seaborg chaired a national commission on education which reported that “If a foreign nation had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightly consider it an act of war.”

This triggered several rounds of debate, with the result that the central government “reformed” American education with policies that insisted that all the states employ ‘credentialed’ teachers. In effect it gave a monopoly on teacher employment to the teacher education industry across the United States. Even private schools are now required to insist on credentials even from their best teachers; I have a friend who is a Catholic school principal, and they are now insisting that all teachers get credentials, even though some of the best teachers in the school have long records of highly effective service.

Last week a new study came out. It reported on the institutions which hold a monopoly on teacher credentials. Obtaining these credentials is often very expensive, resulting in years of indebtedness for teachers, so it is reasonable to examine just what this industry does. The commission to study teacher education programs reported last week.

‘An Industry of Mediocrity’: Study Criticizes Teacher-Education Programs

By Dan Berrett

Colleges of education are "an industry of mediocrity" that churns out unprepared teachers to work in the nation’s elementary and secondary schools, according to a highly anticipated report.

The report, "Teacher Prep Review," describes the findings of a controversial effort to rate the quality of programs at 1,130 institutions nationwide that prepare about 99 percent of the nation’s traditionally trained teachers. Released on Tuesday, the report is the product of a partnership between the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report.

In other words we require anyone who wants to be a school teacher to spend a lot of money obtaining ‘credentials’ from schools that don’t do well at teaching how to teach. They tend to be operated by professors of education who do not themselves have classroom experience but have impressive credentials and degrees: indeed, getting all those credentials and degrees makes it difficult to spend much time actually teaching.

In theory apprentice teachers must take part in supervised teaching classes, where they will learn proper techniques.

The study’s authors also relied on what they describe as expert consensus, strong research, the practices of states or nations that have high-performing teacher-training programs, and "occasionally just common sense."

For example, student-teaching programs are often described as an important part of traditional training programs, and one that distinguishes those programs from alternative training programs. But the council found that just 7 percent of the programs it studied took what it described as basic measures to help teachers-in-training to succeed, such as ensuring that high-quality teachers were their mentors.

"Instead," said Ms. Walsh of the attitude toward recruiting mentors, "they’ll take anyone as long as they’ve been there for three years."

There’s a great deal more. Now note that while in the past private school programs could hire anyone they thought effective, now the pressure is on to hire only those with credentials; which means that the industry of mediocrity is taking over everywhere. This means that the public school system which for decades has been operating in a way indistinguishable from an act of war against the United States is now expanding to eradicate any competition with its methods.

Philosophical Difference

Another reason for the poor ratings nationwide, said Ms. Walsh, is a fundamental difference in philosophy between the council and many of the programs it surveyed. Teacher-training programs have come to see their students as their clients, Ms. Walsh said. The council believes the programs serve the schools in which their graduates will eventually teach.

As a result, she said, colleges of education focus on the feelings of their students, and encourage them to shed biases or prejudices about the pupils they will eventually teach. The future teachers are also taught to develop a personal approach to teaching, one that does not pay sufficient attention, said Ms. Walsh, to what the available research might suggest.

While a course on teaching methods once taught students tools they would use in the classroom, she said, most such courses now focus on helping a future teacher develop a professional identity.

Another reason for the findings, said Ms. Walsh, is that colleges of education admit too many applicants who perform poorly as undergraduates. About 25 percent of the programs admit students in only the top half of their class. High-performing countries limit entry to the top third, the study found.

"It exhibits such little respect for the profession," Ms. Walsh said, "that we think anyone should be allowed to train."

There’s a lot more. None of it is good news. We have delivered the future into the hands of the professors of education, and when we seek to “improve” the schools we do so by “improving” the teachers – which always means insisting that the teachers accumulate more and more “credentials” from the monopoly which sent them out in lifelong debt but without adequate training. And our remedy to this is to insist that the teachers accumulate even more debt acquiring an ever increasing array of credentials from the people who failed to train them in the first place – and to insist that the private schools accept this madness and impose it on their teachers and students as well.

Report criticizes teacher-training programs

By Philip Elliott

The Associated Press

Published: 12:38 p.m., June 18

WASHINGTON — The nation’s teacher-training programs do not adequately prepare would-be educators for the classroom, even as they produce almost triple the number of graduates needed, according to a survey of more than 1,000 programs released today.

The National Council on Teacher Quality review is a scathing assessment of colleges’ education programs and their admission standards, training and value. The report, which drew immediate criticism, was designed to be provocative and urges leaders at teacher-training programs to rethink what skills would-be educators need to be taught to thrive in the classrooms of today and tomorrow.

“Through an exhaustive and unprecedented examination of how these schools operate, the review finds they have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms” with an ever-increasing diversity of ethnic and socioeconomic students, the report’s authors wrote.

“A vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars,” the report said.

The report was likely to drive debate about which students are prepared to be teachers in the coming decades and how they are prepared. Once a teacher settles into a classroom, it’s tough to remove him or her involuntarily and opportunities for wholesale retraining are difficult — if nearly impossible — to find.

The answer, the council and its allies argue, is to make it more difficult for students to get into teacher preparation programs in the first place. And once there, they should be taught the most effective methods to help students.

Of course there is dissent from the professors of education:

Controversial Report Criticizes UCSB Teacher Education Program

But Many Say Its Findings Are Incomplete and Inaccurate

California’s teacher education programs — including UCSB’s — are woefully inadequate, according to a report released by the controversial National Council on Teacher Quality. Tine Sloan, director of UCSB’s Teacher Education Program, compiled a list of methodological issues with the study, stating that she concurred, “the widely held view of this report is that it is based on partial and inaccurate data that fails to capture valid and reliable indicators of teacher performance.”

You may expect to see a great many more reports from education departments defending their monopoly on granting education credentials only to those who make proper obeisance to them – and go into debt to pay them. Being an effective teacher is not a credential: credentials are bits of paper issued by professors of education, many of whom have no actual classroom experience, but are steeped in education theory.

Training for common core standards comes amid national report criticizing teacher-training

  • By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II  Associated Press
  • June 18, 2013 – 4:30 pm EDT

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — As Tennessee education officials begin training teachers on how to implement a new set of common core benchmarks for math and reading, they acknowledge more work is needed following the release of a national education report Tuesday that heavily criticizes teacher-training programs.

More than 30,000 teachers from across the state have signed up to be trained over the next six weeks, according to Education Department spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier. Sessions began Tuesday in 17 districts statewide.

The common core standards, which 45 states and the District of Columbia are adopting, are described as a set of higher expectations in math and English that include more critical thinking and problem solving to help better prepare students for global competition.

The report by the National Council on Teacher Quality said the nation’s teacher-training programs do not adequately prepare would-be educators for the classroom.

In particular, "fewer than one in nine elementary programs and just over one-third of high school programs are preparing candidates in content at the level necessary to teach the new common core state standards," the report said.

Gauthier said the report is not surprising and acknowledged there’s "more work to do in terms of preparing teachers to be in front of the classroom."

Of course nothing in the report should be surprising to those who have gone through the credentialing process. As my long time teacher friend said at breakfast this morning, she learned very little from her education courses she took long ago. She has been a very effective teacher, then administrator, in the public schools and now having retired from the public school system  is an effective principal in a Catholic school; but aside from learning the laws and regulations, there was little in her teacher training long ago or more resent administrative training that was of much use.

And indeed this is true all across the country. There are effective teachers in this nation, but generally they are so despite, not because of, the education department courses they have taken. The teacher training system in this nation is broken; and the response of the education establishment is to insist that they be given even more control over a system they invented, installed, maintained, and used to put themselves into a monopoly situation, and to insist that the cure for our problems is to give them even more control.


There is a simple remedy to all this. Just as the California Smog Control laws insist that the test stations that determine whether or not your car passes the smog test cannot be the ones that “fix” the cars, there should be an independent way to determine who is “credentialed” to teach. Why should a retired USAF Technical Sergeant who has taught mathematics to USAF recruits headed for the weather prediction organizations be required, on retirement, to get a teaching credential before he can teach high school math? Yet it is the law. Why should a professor of history be required to get a teaching credential before she is allowed to teach history to high school students? Yet is it so.

Understand I am not insisting that all USAF math instructors are good teachers – although all the ones I have encountered have been because their supervisors would have moved them into other work if they didn’t do the job – or that history professors are necessarily good high school teachers. What I am saying that their teaching credentials are irrelevant to the jobs, and the principals should have the option of choosing them rather than a new Ed School grad who has never taught and doesn’t know the subject matter, but who has a credential.

But that is all for another discussion. The point I want to make here is that the system is broken, and that it has been broken for a long long time, and it is time and past time to stop forcing our teachers to pay tribute to the credential machine which delivers less and less at higher and higher costs.


For those who want to think deeper about the problems of education, I can think of no better place to start than by reading Jacques Barzun, Teacher in America, a book published in the 1940’s and very relevant today.





Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.