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Bruno: A Low Bar for Teacher Education

10712619536_ec8ded7f27_nI'm often highly critical of traditional teacher education, but Mike Rose's defense is worth reading.

Rose argues - rightly - that reports critical of education schools often lack nuance and fail to emphasize variation in quality across programs.

This is a fair complaint, as it's often hard to shake the feeling that the authors of these reports are trying more to "disrupt" education than to shed light on its problems.

But it's important to remember that while they may have numerous limitations in their attempts to describe the problems with education schools, these reports are not really at the core of the argument against traditional teacher prep.

Rather, the core of the argument against traditional teacher prep is that we do not have much - if any - rigorous evidence that its considerable costs are justified in terms of improved teacher effectiveness.

In fact, there is considerable evidence that alternative certification programs - including those that reduce or delay traditional curricular requirements - produce teachers that are roughly as effective as other programs.

In other words, it is too low a bar to require merely that teacher preparation not be "a disaster". The real concern is that that traditional teacher certification is a considerable waste of resources and an unnecessary barrier to entry into the profession.

Of course, one may fairly respond that the most common measures of teacher effectiveness - namely, math and reading test scores - are too narrow to capture the benefits of traditional teacher preparation.

This seems to be what Rose is getting at when he cautions against "pendulum swings". In particular, he warns that in criticizing schools of education for under-emphasizing practical teaching skills we will force them to under-emphasize "philosophical and social-cultural topics" instead.

Here, however, the burden is on defenders of schools of education to show that various aspects of traditional certification - e.g., a "philosophical and social-cultural" curriculum - are of some real value.

Unfortunately, such value tends to be assumed rather than demonstrated.

To be clear, it is very likely that traditional teacher preparation, as provided by traditional schools of education, has some strengths.

If those strengths are under-appreciated that may be due in part to critics being insufficiently thoughtful, but it is also a consequence of defenders being insufficiently critical. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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