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Poorly prepared teachers steering nation's classrooms

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The United States always needs qualified teachers - and many subpar programs are rushing them into classrooms ill-prepared to deal with students. That's the findings of a report on the National Council on Teacher Quality. While there are some notable success stories, many programs currently in use for instructors rely on written tests in lieu of hands-on classroom situations.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The review found "an industry of mediocrity," with the vast majority of programs faring poorly. In summation, "rookie" educators quickly find themselves overwhelmed by the job, with many abandoning teaching careers altogether. 

The National Council on Teacher Quality, 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.

The report 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. Others come from non-traditional training programs that are not necessarily affiliated with colleges, such as Teach for America.

Many of these new teachers "don't know how to teach reading, don't know how to master a classroom, don't know how to use data," Kate Walsh, the council's president says. "The results were dismal."

However - there are efforts to bolster teacher training underway. Two big teachers unions have both called for aspiring educators to get better mentoring and more practical experience before they graduate. The unions are also calling for more stringent standards that would require candidates to prove their skills in a classroom before earning a license.

Some professors of education found fault with the report. Detractors say that 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.

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

"These rankings do not have a great deal to do with program quality," Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor at the Stanford University School of Education says.

The report did highlight some notable success stories, such as citing the successful teacher training programs at a handful of universities, including Ohio State, which recently launched an undergraduate degree program that gives students hands-on experience in a classroom each year.

"When they leave our program, we're putting a stamp on them that says, 'This person can work with other peoples' children,'" Scott Henderson, director of program development for the teacher education program says. "That's a huge responsibility."

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