« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Stephanie Simon, Reuters, Published June 18 2013

Report shows rookie US teachers woefully unprepared

The U.S. teacher training system is badly broken, turning out rookie educators who have little hands-on experience running classrooms and are quickly overwhelmed by the job, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The review found “an industry of mediocrity,” with the vast majority of programs earning fewer than three stars on a four-star rating scale – and many earning no stars at all.

The council, a bipartisan research and advocacy group, spent eight years developing the methodology, fighting in court to gain access to data and analyzing the information before issuing the report. It contains detailed analysis of 608 colleges and universities with teacher training programs and partial data on 522 others.

Those 1,130 institutions collectively turn out more than 170,000 novice teachers annually, about 80 percent of the new teachers entering classrooms each year. Most of the rest come from nontraditional training programs that are not necessarily affiliated with colleges, such as Teach for America.

Freshly minted teachers “don’t know how to teach reading, don’t know how to master a classroom, don’t know how to use data,” said Kate Walsh, the council’s president. “The results were dismal.”

Attempts to improve teacher training have been underway.

The two big teachers unions have both called for aspiring educators to get better mentoring and more practical experience before they graduate. They have also urged tougher certification standards that would require candidates to prove their skills in a classroom – not just pass a paper-and-pencil test – before earning a license.

Yet the study is the first to attempt a comprehensive rating of teacher preparation programs.

The methodology drew immediate fire from some professors of education.

The council ratings lean heavily on a few factors: Whether a program is selective in its admissions; whether its students must take extensive courses in the subject areas they will be teaching; and how much hands-on experience students get in classroom management. Researchers also looked at syllabi, textbooks and the type of training offered in key fields, such as teaching reading.

But the study did not typically evaluate the quality of teaching within the training program or the success graduates may have had in the classroom.