College Guide


October 22, 2009 3:45 PM Ed Schools Need “Revolutionary Change”

By Daniel Fromson

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is speaking at Columbia University’s Teachers College today to draw attention to what he calls the “mediocre job” that schools of education are doing to prepare teachers for “the realities of the 21st-century classroom.” Kelly Field writes:

In a prepared text of his speech, the secretary accuses colleges of using their schools of education as “cash cows” and “profit centers” to finance “prestigious but underenrolled graduate departments like physics—while doing little to invest in rigorous educational research and well-run clinical testing.” He calls on colleges to make student outcomes “the overarching mission that propels all their efforts.”
He also criticizes states and the federal government for approving weak teacher-training programs and licensing examinations for teachers, and for failing to provide enough support for programs that provide mentors for teachers.

Duncan’s speech is especially laudable for the strong language with which it argues that talented teachers form the bedrock of American equality. In the transcript, he states, “I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. And if you care about promoting opportunity and reducing inequality, about promoting civic knowledge and participation, the classroom is the place to start.” Well said.

Daniel Fromson is an editorial intern at the Washington Monthly. He previously interned at Harper's Magazine, and he has written for Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal.


  • Texas Aggie on October 23, 2009 8:03 PM:

    I don't know whether he mentioned it, but another problem with schools of education (SoE) is that they have taken over the function that basketweaving classes used to have. In one school with which I am closely acquainted (guess which one), the SoE commonly hands out the test questions the week before an exam and even then some of the students fail. They also have such intriguing courses as "How to Make a Bulletin Board." You need a whole course on this??

    But I am also acquainted with other SoE and they are no better, just bad in their own separate ways. A classmate of mine from undergraduate days, a B student who studied her buns off, went to UWisconsin, one of the better SoE, for an MAT and got a 4.0 without even trying. She told me she felt ashamed when the professors congratulated her on work that she would have been embarrassed to turn in as an undergraduate.

    And the former teaching colleges in PA are to laugh. I did some summer courses in one for a teaching certificate and was a top student, no one even close, with only a minimum of effort. The Ed Psych course was passing people with 40% on their exams by grading on the curve.

  • inkadu on October 23, 2009 9:20 PM:

    Schools of education can't make people smarter and they can't fail half their students. So they have to dumb down the curriculum.

    The best an individual college can do is attract the best applicants, but there is just a limited pool of talent for a field that requires a lot of hands.

    And credentialing is never the answer. Credentialing is just a series of hoops that, due to the nature of the talent pool, only weeds out the very worst who can't handle the work, and the very best who choose not to go into a low-reward field with an arbitrarily high barrier to entry.

  • Cas on October 24, 2009 2:28 AM:

    And I think you are completely off the mark.
    "Duncanís speech is especially laudable for the strong language with which it argues that talented teachers form the bedrock of American equality."
    Yes, and they get paid not very good wages in much of the country, have really bad working condtions--you try teaching 30 kids x 5 and trying to assess their work regularly in a meaningful way? The best are willing to put in 60+ hours/week, and the sec of ed is trying to make it harder to be a teacher!!!??? Simple economics tells us that for a given reward, increase the cost, and you lower the pool of those interested in doing the work. This is just an invitation for us to moan about an under-supply of teachers a few years down the road. Sorry, that dog won't hunt; and it won't hunt until such time as a comprehensive plan to standardize wages is made, AND to increase them significantly.