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February 22, 2010 5:31 PM The Pedagogy Con

By Daniel Luzer

Teacher.jpg

President Obama hired Arnie Duncan to be education secretary in part because Duncan would support dramatic changes in American education. Unlike someone like, say, Stanford School of Education’s incremental reformer Linda Darling-Hammond, Duncan was supposed to make people uncomfortable.

Mission accomplished. Back in October Duncan said that education schools in the United States didn’t really work: “By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom.”

Duncan’s right. While public school salaries and promotions are tied to credentials from colleges of education, master’s degrees in education don’t actually make people better teachers.

So now Duncan’s said the hell with it. According to a piece by Libby Nelson in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Mr. Obama’s proposed budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which starts on October 1, would increase funds for teacher training but would do so in part by placing teachers’ colleges in direct competition for money, for the first time, with alternative-certification programs like Teach for America.

Education schools are traditionally the cash cows of American universities. Public school teachers use public money to obtain certificates and degrees from teachers colleges. With those credentials school districts will pay the teachers more money. Universities can use the tuition revenue to fund other, more expensive, programs.

It’s a tidy system and one with important implications for higher education funding. It’s also an incredible waste of money.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer