A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 27 2013

Are We Experiencing a Revolution?

The teacher prep landscape has been shifting recently. Jonathan Schorr views the changes as part of a revolution in teacher prep.

The question is an interesting one: are we experiencing a revolution? In Schorr’s view, the answer is yes. He points out the many alternative teacher prep programs that now exist. While each may have its own unique take on teacher prep, they all, according to Schorr, seem to share some common characteristics:

  • an emphasis on practice
  • expert teachers as models/mentors
  • a classroom performance orientation
  • rigor

These programs seem to contrast, in large part, with what one typically imagines of a “traditional” teacher prep program–a theory-heavy and practice-light experience.

Schorr’s piece is a good summary of the present landscape. But I don’t see the revolution happening just yet. To use a metaphor, teacher prep has plenty of people and organizations creating sparks out there, but the fire hasn’t yet ignited because there is no consistent source of fuel. That is, there are plenty of pioneers (many of which are mentioned in Schorr’s piece, including Relay) that are pushing boundaries and proving the impossible. But the present dynamic doesn’t yet seem like one that is sustainable for the long haul because the alternative prep model hasn’t really been “objectively verified”–it hasn’t been “proven to work” for a longer period of time. So, to me, the quest for the fuel to the teacher prep fire is the most important element of actually launching the revolution.

Naturally, then, the most interesting development that Schorr points out is that some states have begun to collect data linking ed school graduates’ performance to their respective teacher prep programs. Once these pioneer states have spent a few years collecting this data, we’ll be able to compare, a little more objectively, the outcomes of traditional v. alternative teacher prep programs. I greatly look forward to seeing what patterns emerge from the data. And, depending on what that data looks like, the revolution can truly begin in teacher prep.

But even if the teacher prep revolution begins, we shouldn’t ignore the possibility of revolutions in other areas. Training effective teachers is an essential piece to the education puzzle; it is a task towards which we, as a nation, should devote much effort. But we also can’t forget about principals and other school-based leaders and the role they play in shaping student outcomes. So I look forward to seeing more on the medium-term results of programs, like New Leaders for New Schools, that aim to develop school-based leaders using the same principles that Schorr mentions in his piece.


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