Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Anyone Can Do It

Other than teaching, is there a profession anywhere else in the world where the movement is toward less training and preparation? Are there any programs that will give you a medical license for doing work in a hospital without going to medical school? Is there a movement to make people lawyers who've never been to law school? What about teaching makes it so different?

Here in New York, the Board of Regents has approved a program that will allow programs like Teach for America to create their own masters programs so that participants can get their masters without going to an actual education school.

Not to be flip, but would we allow Doctors for America (if such a program exists) to grant medical degrees based on work done in poor hospitals around the country? Would we allow them to set up non-accredited programs to grant those degrees and then accept them as valid?

A few things seem pretty clear to me when I read a story like this. First, traditional education schools have messed up. Either they've screwed up the way they prepare teachers or they've screwed up their own PR because people seem not to think that they're preparing teachers well. It's a problem no matter which way you cut it.

Second, people think that because they've been in school, they're an expert on school policies and how schools should be run and that everyone can just do it. That's why we have lawyers running school systems and masters degrees being given by non-accredited institutions. We wouldn't put up with this in the medical profession, but teaching is seen as somehow less.

I do have to say that while I have major misgivings about what this actually means and what it indicates, I do strongly believe that an education program should have a strong focus on practical, inside the classroom elements. I don't think that should totally replace theory (which helps inform those inside the classroom elements), but they do need to be a strong component of any program.

What I oppose is the de-professionalization of teaching. I can't help but think that this is a step down that road.


Gideon said...

There are significant differences between training programs for teachers and doctors. Medical schools have extremely high standards for entry, including rigorous college coursework prior to admission, whereas education schools offer BAs to teachers with, on average, extremely low credentials compared to other professions. In addition, the medical profession has established a core knowledge base that is directly tied to research and practice, whereas schools of education are relatively divorced from the schools in which their graduates will work. Finally, teachers are not in control of their own education system, whereas doctors are the driving force behind medical school curriculum and requirements.

I think allowing organizations like Teach for America to participate in dialogues about what knowledge and skills teachers need to succeed in the classroom as a step towards making teaching more of a profession akin to medicine or law.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with if, if it could be shown that teacher preparation programs actually add value.

Research shows that teachers who receive traditional degrees perform no better than those who receive, in your words 'no training'

Anonymous said...

I think it is a mistake to go the way of the alternative training programs. Education schools, medical schools, schools of social work create a common language and knowledge base from which to discuss practice. This type of learning is critical for teachers to have a deep understanding of their children and for them to connect to their school colleagues.

Presently we live in a black and white world, all or nothing. I would suggest that it's not that one program or approach is better than the other but that both are needed in education training programs. This can be accomplished by requiring that student teaching be expanded or some kind of teacher internship or residency be developed. It could be set up as a team teaching where teacher interns are paired with classroom teachers just as interns work with residents and attending physicians. The intern would be required to practice a certain amount of hours during the internship.

Remember though, part of the reasoning behind the high compensation of lawyers and doctors is the cost and time spent in training. If we increase the training period for teachers we will need to increase the pay to compensate for the lost wages during the training period.

Ceolaf said...

Othe professions combine multiple years of classroom lessons -- including a lot of theory -- with multiple years of highly supervised practice before anyone claims to be anything like a fully trained professional.

But teacher prep programs are being held responsible for creating fully capable teachers without anyone providing the kinds of highly supervised and supported early years of practice that doctors and other professionals get.

How is that the least bit reasonable?

Just because we WANT some kind of way to get great fully trained teachers cheapy and quickly doesn't mean that we CAN get one.

Pogue said...

It may seem for these online teacher training programs that Bill Gates and Microsoft could make considerable profits...

So that's why they want to do this. These rich guys never seem to have enough.

P.S. love your website

John said...

First, thanks everyone for reading.

I totally agree that there's a role for groups like Teach for America (and also school districts) to play in working with education schools to improve the offerings at those schools. No debate that there is room for improvement. I also love the idea of extended internships and similar programs to better prepare teachers for life in an actual classroom.

I think that the answer lies in more preparation (or at least more thorough/effective preparation) rather than less. Removing education schools from that mix, or at least deemphasizing them, doesn't do us any favors in the long run.

Thanks again for reading.