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Arne Duncan Full Transcript


OCTOBER 22, 2009

11:30 AM ET


            Susan Fuhrman, President, Teachers College: Good morning! And welcome, everyone. The very first thing I want to do this morning is thank the person who made this occasion possible, and that's Phyllis Kossoff. Phyllis, where are you sitting? Would you stand up?


            Oh, there she is. You can see the red hat. Phyllis got her master's degree at Teacher's College and she has been a firm supporter ever since, a staunch friend of the institution, a member of the President's Advisory Council. She has endowed a scholarship here, and she is the sponsor of the Phyllis Kossoff lecture in education policy which we're inaugurating today. So thank you so much, Phyllis.


            And now to our main speaker for today. Secretary Duncan, on behalf of the entire Teacher's College community I want to say welcome. We're tremendously excited and honored to be hosting you today, and especially pleased that you will be talking about the issue of teacher preparation. Teacher education, of course is central to TC's mission, and central to the leadership of the first Dean of Teacher's College, James Earl Russell, who established the field of professional preparation for educators at the beginning of the 20th century. He believed that teacher education needed to rest on four pillars: general culture, special scholarship, professional knowledge, and technical skill. By “general culture,” Russell meant preparation which would enable the student to see the relationships existing everywhere in various fields of knowledge, and the unity of all knowledge. This was a critical point because it opened the door from the very first for Teacher's College to offer courses in nutrition, psychology, nursing, and other fields not traditionally connected with schooling.

            By “special scholarship” Russell meant content knowledge in one's own field --a knowledge of the field that is both “comprehensive and evaluated,” to quote him. By “professional knowledge,” he meant knowledge of the learner and learning; of the history of education and of school administration, knowledge of the teacher, the student, and society. And by “technical training” he meant pedagogy. The artist in every vocation must have consummate skills in the use of his tools. The teacher must be skilled in the techniques of his art, he said.

            Secretary Duncan, these same propositions are essential to the work of teacher's College today, and, as the record clearly shows, to your own as well. During your seven years as chief executive of Chicago's public schools, the number of teachers applying for positions nearly tripled. The number of teachers achieving national board certification increased to over over 1,100 in 2008 compared to just 11 a decade earlier. This is the fastest-growing urban district in this regard. And the results for students are nothing short of inspiring. During that same period an all-time high of 66.7% of elementary school students in Chicago met or exceeded state reading standards, and their math scores were also at a record high.

            Students in Chicago's public schools posted gains on the ACT at three times the rate of national gains, and nearly twice of that the state. And the number of high school students taking advanced placement courses tripled. The number of students passing AP classes more than doubled. Graduation rates increased significantly, and the total number of college scholarships secured by Chicago public school students climbed to 157 million.

            There are many other aspects of what you have accomplished both in Chicago and during the months you became education secretary that dovetail closely with our efforts at Teacher's College. You made Chicago the primary theater for piloting the concept of the community school. That is, the school as the provider of academic, recreational service programs for students, parents and other community residents. That's, too, is a concept that's been at the heart of Teacher's College vision since its inception. In fact, in the early 20th Century, Teacher's College founded the Speyer School on 126th Street – a school that opened from 6:00 A.M. until 10:00 P.M. and which served all the community’s residents, students, parents, and others.

            And now, under the leadership of our new Office of School and Community Partnerships, we are seeking to re-establish a Teacher's College community school here in Harlem, a pre-K through 8th school that would also be the hub of its entire community. In recent months you have championed two major pieces of legislation making their way through Congress -- one on the quality of early childhood education, with $8 billion attached, and another on bolstering the performance of community colleges, with $12 billion attached, and both those areas are strengths here at Teacher's College and have been shaped by our own faculty's efforts – Sharon Lynn Kagan and Tom Bailey, respectively.

            And you've lent powerful impetus to the promising new consensus that is emerging around the notion of common core learning standards in English and math -- work in which, again, researchers at Teacher's College have played a par. And we also have something else in common. You are from Chicago, and TC and Chicago share the legacy of one of the greatest thinkers in American education, John Dewey, whose 150th birthday was celebrated this week.

            Beyond even these areas of overlap, Secretary Duncan, you have demonstrated that valuable and all-too-rare skill in the field of education, the ability to unite parents, teachers, principals, and business stakeholders behind an aggressive reform agenda. You have worked in the trenches in all areas, and at all levels of education, starting a school, helping to fund college educations for inner-city kids, and you even worked with children who were wards of the state in Australia.

            And most of all, you believe passionately, as we do, in the critical importance of education to the life chances of each individual and to the future of our country. Or, as you, yourself, have so eloquently put it, “Education is the civil rights' issue of our generation -- the only sure path out of poverty, and the only way to achieve a more equal and just society.” Mr. Secretary, we're eager to hear your vision for improving teacher preparation, and we're excited about working together with you in the future to make it a reality.

            Secretary Duncan.

            (Cheers and applause)

            Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education: Thank you so much for that kind introduction, Susan. Before I begin, let's give her a huge round of applause. We are so lucky to have her here at Teacher's College.


            Susan is an absolute dynamo as you know. I am just so proud of what's going on here. It's an honor, an absolute honor and a pleasure to be here at Columbia Teacher's College -- the oldest, the largest, and the most storied graduate school of education in the United States. Here in the citadel of teacher preparation, where giants -- and Susan talked about them -- like John Dewey, played a formative role, I come to speak to you today about the need for a sea-change in our nation's schools of education. Like the Teachers College, many schools of education have provided high-quality preparation programs for aspiring teachers for decades. In the last decade, a slew of education schools have also upgraded their programs, with lots of rigorous practice-spaced initiatives to adapt to the reality of preparing instructors, to teach to diverse students in our information age. I am going to talk about some of those shining examples in just a moment. Yet 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 21 st century classroom.

            America's university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change, not evolutionary tinkering. Despite the obstacles to reform, I am absolutely optimistic that the seeds for real change are being planted and will bear fruit.

            America faces three great educational challenges that make the need to improve teacher preparation programs all the more urgent. First, the education that millions of Americans got in the past simply won't do anymore. In the information age, it is impossible, it is impossible to drop out of school and land a good job. Even workers with high school diplomas but without college degrees are going to find they have very limited opportunities in a competitive global economy. As President Obama has said, education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it's a prerequisite to success.

            Second, education, as Horace Mann said nearly two centuries ago, has long been the great equalizer in our country. No matter what your race, national origin, disability, or zip code, every single child is entitled to a quality public education.

            Today, more than ever, we acknowledge America's need and a public school's obligation to teach all students, all students to their full potential. And yet today we are still far from achieving that dream of equal educational opportunity.

            Nearly 30% of our students today drop out, or fail to complete high school on time. That's 1.2 million children every single year. Barely 60% of African American and Latino students graduate on time. In many cities, half or more of low-income learners drop out of school. Those statistics and facts are absolutely unacceptable. As Susan said, 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 we need to start. Children today in our neediest schools are likely to have the least qualified teachers. And that’s why great teaching is about so much more than education. It is absolutely a daily fight for social justice.

            Now, the nation’s rising educational demands are only half the picture. The third force propelling the nation’s need for more and better teachers is a massive exodus of Baby-Boomers from the teaching force over the course of next decade. We currently have 3.2 million teachers who work at some 95,000 schools where more than half of those teachers and principals are Baby-Boomers.

            And during the next four years, we could lose 1/3 of our Veteran teachers and school leaders to retirement and attrition. By 2014 – just five short years from now – we project that up to a million new teaching positions will need to be filled by new teachers. These major demographic shifts mean that teaching is going to be a booming profession in the years ahead, with school districts nationwide making up to 200,000 new first-time hires every single year. It's important to emphasize the challenge of our schools is not just the looming teacher shortage, but rather a shortage of great teachers in schools and communities where they are needed most. As Lyndon Johnson foresaw in 1965, he said tomorrow’s teachers must not merely be plentiful enough, they must be good enough. They must possess the old virtues of energy and dedication, and they must possess new knowledge and new skill.

            In our new era of accountability, it is not enough for a teacher to say I taught it but the students didn't learn it. As Linda Darling-Hammond has pointed out, that is equivalent to saying the operation was a success but the patient died. More than 40 years after Johnson spoke, high poverty, high-need schools still struggle to attract and retain great talent. Teacher openings in science and math, subjects that are so critically important to our student's future, are often hard to fill with effective instructors. And students with disabilities and English-language learners are still underserved. Rural classrooms are facing teacher shortages, and we have far too few teachers of color. Nationwide, more than 35% of public school students are Hispanic or African-American. But less than 15% of our teachers are black or Latino.

            That's a problem that is not self-correcting and we must proactively work together to fix it. It is especially troubling that less than 2% of our nation's teachers are African American males. To keep America competitive and make the American dream of equal educational opportunity a reality, we need to recruit, reward, train, learn from and honor a new generation of talented teachers. But the bar must be raised for successful teacher preparation programs, because we ask so much more today of teachers than we did even a decade ago. Today, teachers are asked to achieve significant growth for all students, even as they instruct students with ever more diverse and complicated needs. Teaching has never been more difficult, it has never been more important, and the desperate need for student success has never been more urgent. But are we adequately preparing future teachers to win in this critical battle? Our ability to attract – and, more importantly, retain – great talent over the next five years will shape public education in our country for the next 30. It is truly a once in a generation shift.

            I am urging every teacher preparation program today to make better outcomes for students the overarching mission that propels every single one of their efforts. America's great educational challenges require that this new generation of well-prepared teachers significantly boost student learning and increase college and career readiness. President Obama has set an ambitious goal of having America regain its position as the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. But to reach that goal, both our K-12 system and our teacher education programs have to get dramatically better. The stakes are huge, and the time to cling to the status quo has passed.

            Now, there is a reason why so many of us remember our favorite teacher forever. A great teacher can literally change the course of a student's life. They light a lifelong curiosity, a desire to participate in democracy, and instill a thirst for knowledge. It's no surprise that studies repeatedly document that the single biggest influence on student academic growth is the quality of the teacher standing in front of the classroom. Not socioeconomic status, not family background, but the quality of the teacher in front of that class.

            Earlier this month at Thomas Jefferson's fabled rotunda at the University of Virginia I issued a call to teaching as an essential national mission of our time. But the fact is that recruiting and preparing this army of great new teachers depends heavily on our nation's colleges of education. More than half of tomorrow's teachers will be trained at schools of education. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that schools and Departments of Education produce about 220,000 certified teachers a year. Now, I am all in favor of expanding high-quality alternative certification routes, like High-Tech High, The New Teacher Project, Teach for America, and teacher residency programs. But these promising alternative programs will produce fewer than 10,000 teachers per year.

            The predominance of education schools in preparing teachers is not the only reason this is a national priority and a critical concern for higher education. My good friend, Congressman George Miller from California -- the chair of the House Committee on Education, and a great reform advocate -- points out that America's taxpayers generously support teacher preparation programs. It is only right this investment should be well spent. In the 2007/2008 school year, nearly 30% of undergraduate education majors received Pell Grants totaling close to a billion dollars. That same year about 40% of undergraduate education majors received $3 billion in federal student loans. All told, the Federal Government now provides $4 billion a year in Pell Grants and federal loans to support students and our university-based teacher preparation programs.

            At the same time, graduate schools of education have a huge impact on post-Baccalaureate enrollment. They award nearly 30% of all master's degrees, more than any other branch of graduate studies. And unlike independent alternative certification programs, university-based teacher preparation programs have unique advantages. They are financially self-sustaining. They have math and science departments on campus to assist in specialized training. They can provide rich content knowledge in the Liberal Arts. And they are in a position to research and test what works and what doesn't to improve student learning.

            Now, it's not possible to talk honestly about radical improvements to teacher preparation programs without acknowledging the troubled history of education schools and stubborn barriers to reform. To echo a sentiment voiced by deans of education school, almost since colleges of education came into being, they have frequently been treated like the Rodney Dangerfield of higher education. Historically, education schools were the institution that got no respect, from the Oval Office to the provost’s office, from university presidents to secretaries of education. From the onset of education schools a century ago, they have been beset by skeptics who said that teachers were simply born and not made. In William James' popular lectures, Talks to Teachers about Psychology, published in 1899, James warned that educators made “a very great mistake” in assuming that child psychology could help provide methods of instruction for immediate school room use. James said that teaching was an instinctual art, and many of his colleagues in academia agreed that teaching was more a craft than a profession. In his book The Uncertain Profession, the former administrator Arthur Powell argued that none of the social sciences spawned by the American university at the end of the 19th century has a more volatile and more troublesome history than the field of education. The dismissal of teacher preparation programs by the Liberal Arts faculty on many campuses was so complete that in the 1930s the President of Harvard described Harvard's graduate school of education as "a kitten that ought to be drowned."


            Columbia itself was not exempt from soul-searching about the effectiveness of colleges of education. In 1944, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Teacher's College, Harvard President James Bryant Conant gave a speech here calling for a truce among educators, a plea, he acknowledged, that fell on deaf ears. Nearly 20 years later, Conant authored a two-year study of education schools that acknowledged that many students believed that the required courses that they took were Mickey Mouse courses.

            Jacques Barzun, who wrote the classic Teaching in America and later went on to be Columbia's provost, was equally unsparing in his critique of education schools. In his essay “The Art of Making Teachers,” he wrote that teacher training was based on “a strong anti-intellectual bias, enhanced by a total lack of imagination.”

            Jump forward to 1963, and we find that President Kennedy was voicing many of the same concerns about the quality of educational research that continued to resound to this day. Research in education, President Kennedy, declared has been astonishingly meager and frequently ignored. It is appalling that so little is known about the level of performance, comparative value of alternative investments, and specialized programs of our educational system. More than three decades later, not much, or at least, not enough, has changed. In 1995, the Holmes Group, a coalition of ed school deans, issued a pointed warning that, "The education school should cease to act as a silent agent in the preservation of the status quo."

            In 1999, Richard Riley, one of my predecessors as Secretary of Education told the National Press Club that we can no longer “fiddle around the edges of how we recruit, prepare, retain, and reward America's teachers. Our colleges of education can no longer be the sleepy backwaters.”

            Now, as you know, the most recent comprehensive study of education schools was carried out by Arthur Levine, the former President of Teachers College. Levine’s 2006 study found numerous examples of exemplary programs. But he also documented the persistence of problems that afflicted ed schools for decades. At the moment, he wrote, teacher education is “the Dodge City of the education world, unruly and disordered.” The bottom line, he concluded, is that we lack “empirical evidence of what works in preparing teachers for an outcome-based education system. We don't know what, where, how, or when teacher education is most effective.”

            Ed school deans and faculty interviewed for Levine's study painted an unflattering picture of teacher education, which they complained was subjective, obscure, faddish, out of touch, too politically correct, and failed to address the burning problems in the nation’s schools. English professor E.D. Hirsch, the father of the acclaimed content-rich Core Knowledge Program, got his own taste of the ideological blinders at the college of education when he chose to teach an ed school course on the cause and the cure of the achievement gap. Having authored the 1987 bestseller Cultural Literacy, Hirsch anticipated that his course would be overflowing with students. But three years in a row, only 10 or so students enrolled. Finally, one of his students informed Hirsch that other professors in the ed school were urging them to shun and avoid the course because it ran counter to their pedagogical beliefs.

            More than 3 out of 5 ed school alums surveyed for the Levine report said that training did not prepare them adequately for their work in the classroom. In my seven years as CEO the Chicago public schools, and in my current job, as I have traveled the country, I have had literally hundreds of conversations with great teachers. And they echo many of the same concerns about ed schools voiced in the Levine report and in earlier decades. In particular, they see two things about the training that they received. First, most of them felt they didn't get the hands-on practical teacher training about managing the classroom that they desperately needed, especially when working in impoverished communities. And second, they were not taught how to use data to differentiate and improve instruction and boost student learning.

            On Tuesday night, two days ago, at a national town hall meeting with teachers, I asked the studio audience of about 100 teachers how they felt about their preparation that they received in schools of ed. An uneasy laughter filled the room. Not the kind of response that engenders confidence. Now, the obvious question arises, why have teacher preparation programs historically been difficult to reform? And how is it that, in the face of this history, I am actually very optimistic that important changes are already under way in our nation's teacher preparation programs?

            Let me start by answering that first question about the obstacles to reform. It is far too simple to blame colleges of education for the slow pace. In fact, universities, states, and the Federal Government have all impeded reform in a variety of ways. For decades, schools of education have been renowned for being cash cows for universities. The large enrollment in education schools and the relatively low overhead have made them profit centers. But many universities have diverted those profits to more prestigious but under-enrolled graduate programs like physics, while doing little to invest back in rigorous educational research and well-run clinical training. This robbing Peter to pay Paul is extraordinarily short sighted. If teaching is and should be one of our most revered professions, teacher preparation programs should be among the university's most important responsibilities. Unfortunately, this is often the exception, not the norm.

            It takes a University to prepare a teacher. The arts and science has to play an essential role in strengthening the content knowledge of aspiring teachers. I do not understand when college Presidents and deans of the arts and science faculty ignore their teacher preparation programs, yet then turn around and complain about the cost of providing remedial classes to their incoming freshmen. Simply put, too many incoming freshmen don't know the content because they've been taught by teachers whose own content knowledge is insufficient.

            In my view, Donald Kennedy, the former President of Stanford University got it right when he said that only if the best institutions care about public schools, and their own schools of education, will the public think they are worth caring about, and nothing can be more clearly than the business of America's academic leaders.

            Now, the fact is that states, districts, and the Federal Government are also all culpable for the persistence of weak teacher preparation programs. Most states routinely approve teacher preparation programs, and licensing exams typically measure basic skills and subject matter knowledge with paper-and-pencil tests without any real-world assessment of classroom readiness.

            Local mentoring programs for new teachers are often poorly funded and poorly organized at the district level. Less than a handful of states and districts carefully track the performance of teachers to their teacher preparation programs to identify which programs are producing well-prepared teachers, and which programs are not turning out effective teachers. We should be studying and copying the practices of effective teacher preparation programs, encouraging the lowest performers to shape up or to shut down. Even the failure of some education schools to develop a rigorous research-based curriculum cannot solely be laid at their doorstep. We all know that the reading and math wars have gone on for decades. But that doesn't mean that they are destined to last forever. Thanks to the National Reading Panel and other national expert assessments, educators know much more about the science of teaching reading and math today than we did a decade ago. Yet, as your President, Susan Fuhrman, recently pointed out, countries like Singapore and South Korea and the Czech Republic that outperform us in science and math provide their teachers with much clearer guidance on key ideas and content to be mastered in each grade.

            Now, each of these barriers to reform that I have just cited is beginning to slowly recede. That's one reason why I remain so optimistic that real improvements to teacher education programs are under way. For the first time 48 states have banded together to develop common college and career-ready standards for high school students. And the Federal Government is providing generous incentives through the Race to the Top funds to encourage rigorous standards, including setting aside $350 million to fund the competitive development of better assessments for our nation's students.

            Just a year ago, many education experts would have doubted states could ever agree on common college-ready and career-ready standards.

            The Race to the Top criteria would also reward states that publicly report and link student achievement data to the programs where teachers and principals were credentialed. And the federal government has funded a large expansion of teacher residency programs in high-needs districts and schools, including one to be run right out of the Teacher's College right here.

            As you know, teacher residency programs follow a medical model of training where residents are placed in school with extensive induction and support during a year-long apprenticeship. In Chicago, I was lucky enough to work with the academy of urban school leadership, one of the nation's top residency programs. The U.S. Department of education recently announced $43 million in grants for 28 teacher quality partnership programs that went to colleges of education and high-needs school districts with more than half of the 5-year grants supporting residency programs. An additional $100 million in grants included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be awarded early next year. We want to be part of the solution here. At the state and the district level, states like Louisiana are leading the way in building longitudinal data systems that enable states to track and compare the impact of new teachers from one teacher preparation program on student achievement over a period of years.

            Louisiana's system is already up and running, linking teacher education programs in the state back to student performance and growth in math, in English, in reading, in science, and in social studies. All students in Louisiana in grades 4-9 who took one of the state's assessments are eligible for inclusion in Louisiana's evaluation of teacher impact. And the state uses three years of data involving hundreds of thousands of students and tens of thousands of teachers. Louisiana is using the information to identify effective and ineffective programs for the first time, and university-based teacher education programs are using this outcome data to revamp and strengthen their programs.

            Officials at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette decided to increase admissions requirements, added a career counselling program to better prepare teachers for the transition into the classroom, and boosted course work requirements in English language arts. Real change based upon the real outcomes of children. Pretty remarkable.

            Right now, Louisiana is the only state in the nation that tracks the effectiveness of its teacher preparation programs. Every state in the nation should be doing the same. As I said, we're going to provide incentives for states to do so in a $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition. It's a simple but obvious idea. Colleges of education and district officials ought to know which teacher preparation programs are effective, and which need fixing. Transparency, longitudinal data, thoughtful self-examination, we think can be powerful tonics for programs stuck in the past.

            Several districts are moving to track the impacts of teacher preparation programs on outcomes. Here in New York, the Teacher Policy Research Project, sponsored by the University of Albany and Stanford University, recently assessed the impact that 31 elementary teacher preparation programs had on math and English achievement in New York City. They found that the difference between the average impact of the 31 teacher preparation programs and the top value-added institution for first-year teachers was about the same as the difference in average learning for classroom of predominantly low-income students, and those in a classroom where there weren't those poverty rates.

            The New York study is yet another example of how we're finally beginning to get the comparative data on investments that President Kennedy called for so long ago.

            Now, just as the states and districts are beginning to link teacher preparation programs to student outcomes, universities are also taking the responsibility to improve teacher education much more seriously. I have been involved in a listening and learning tour over the last nine months that's taken me to over 30 states. Everywhere I go I see universities partnering with school districts, opening up lab schools and magnet schools and traditional schools and charter schools, and creating professional development schools for ed school students to gain clinical experience. In droves, universities have opened their doors through alternative certification programs, and are paying greater attention to the quality and the supervision of student teachers during that critically important clinical training.

            As you know, the accreditation of schools of education is a voluntary process. And historically course work has been given greater priority than clinical training for students in accreditation. But there are also encouraging signs that colleges of education want to make self-policing more meaningful with clinical experience driving course work. Both NCATE – the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education -- and AACTE – the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education -- are firmly behind the new drive to link teacher education programs to better student outcomes. In June, NCAE and its president, Jim Cibulka, announced the first major revision of teacher education requirements in a decade. It includes new accreditation requirements that will oblige institutions to strengthen the clinical focus of their programs and foster demonstrable increases in student learning. NCATE’s new accreditation system will be modeled in part on Tennessee’s evolving experiment, where the Board of Regents has decided that all undergraduate teacher candidates will spend their senior year in year long residencies in K-12 schools.

            I hope other states and schools of education shift more to a residency model of training. Under the leadership of Sharon Robinson, the AACTE, and its 800 colleges and universities have made it a core mission to have pre-service education lead to substantial increases in student achievement. AACTE has also recently launched a series of new programs and initiatives designed to improve their teachers’ effectiveness. One of their most promising initiatives to date is the development of the first nationally accessible assessment of teacher candidates’ readiness. Under this performance-based assessment, supervising teachers and faculty would evaluate student teachers in the classroom. And student teachers and interns would be required to plan and teach a week-long stint of instruction mapped to states’ standards, and provide commentaries on videotape of their instruction in classroom management. AACTE's project is based on PACT, California's Performance Assessment for Teachers, which Linda Darling-Hammond and a wide-ranging consortium of teacher education programs in California have done so much to pioneer. Already, 14 states have signed up to pilot the performance assessment.


            In the end, I don't think that the ingredients of a good teacher preparation program research are much of a mystery anymore. Our best programs are coherent, up to date, research based, and provide students with subject mastery. They have a strong and substantial field-based program in local public schools that drives much of the course work in classroom management and in student learning and prepares students to teach diverse students in high-needs settings. And these programs have a shared vision of what constitutes good teaching and best practices, including a single-minded focus on improving student learning and using data to inform instruction.

            The program right here at Teacher's College, which turns out about 700 teachers a year, explicitly trains students to use data to continuously improve their own instruction and to target student learning gaps. Every student teacher in the elementary program here at TC completes at least a semester of student teaching. And unlike some ed schools, every student teacher here works under the careful supervision of a well qualified mentor teacher. About half of TC’s graduating teachers in 2007-08 ended up in high-needs schools here in New York City. Finally, your commitment to research what really works to advance student learning is impressive.

            Earlier this month, I spoke to students at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and found a similarly top-notch program where fifth-year students teach full-time during their first semester. I see David Steiner, your great new commissioner in New York in the audience, and David created an extraordinary teacher preparation program at Hunter College. Like Virginia's program, it has a carefully-run clinical program that videotapes student teachers and helps them learn from their experience.

            In contrast to some colleges of education, David also encouraged the incorporation of best practices from a new generation of high-performing charter schools. He even established an alternative certification program for teachers of record—Teacher You—for KIPP, Achievement First, and the Uncommon Schools.

            There are many other first-rate teacher preparation programs—Stanford, the University of Washington, and Michigan, just to name a few. But I want to be clear that it doesn't take an elite university and a big endowment to create a good teacher education program.

            At Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, home of the National Teachers Hall of Fame, the Teachers College is the crown jewel of the school. Roughly 80 percent of students are supervised by full-time education faculty instead of adjuncts—and all elementary education professors are in the public schools every day. Senior year is a 100 percent field-based program in Emporia's public schools, where student teachers do everything from assisting with grading to sitting in on parent-teacher conferences.

            Alverno College, a Catholic women's college in Milwaukee, also requires a rigorous field experience in the public schools and has faculty and local principals assess videotapes of student teachers. Eighty-five percent of Alverno graduates are still in the classroom five years after graduation, an extremely high retention rate. At Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, Project Prime, a partnership with the Rapid City Schools uses school-based math coaches and graduate level courses for teachers to successfully boost math achievement among Native American students.

            I cite all these examples to point out that, with courage and commitment, our teacher preparation programs absolutely can provide dynamic and effective teacher preparation for the 21st century—leaving the sleepy backwaters that Secretary Riley spoke of behind. In place of the uncertain profession, I want to see teacher preparation programs one day rival those of other professions.

            When the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is reauthorized, we will be reinvesting in teacher education programs. We will encourage partnerships with states and districts that address teacher shortages in high-needs areas. And we will encourage programs committed to results: Programs that use data, including student achievement data, to foster an ethic of continuous improvement for students and teachers.

Our best teacher preparation programs see the smart use of data as a boon that can help them improve, not as a burden. They see competition from alternative providers not as a threat but as a force from which they can learn, benefit, and share ideas.

It's often said that great teachers are unsung heroes, but for me that truism has real meaning. Teaching is one of the few professions that is not just a job or even an adventure—it's a calling. Great teachers strive to help every student unlock their potential and develop the habits of mind that will serve them for a lifetime. They believe that every student has a gift—even when students doubt themselves.

            Henry Adams said that "a teacher affects eternity—he can never tell where his influence stops." That is a weighty responsibility and a unique privilege. I thank you for all that you have done and will do to train the next generation of great teachers. The challenges facing our nation's schools of education are great. But so is the opportunity to better serve our children and the common good.

Thank you.




Laurie Tisch, Vice Chair, Teachers College Board of Trustees: Thank you so much, Secretary Duncan, for articulating a powerful and compelling vision of teacher preparation that serves the needs of all children and will help them to realize their potential.

            I'm so very proud to serve as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Teacher's College, which as you mentioned is early in the vanguard of fulfilling that position – not least, through the generous federal grant the college recently received to create a teacher residency program in high-need New York City schools. I am proud that the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund is supporting the college's efforts. Teacher's College offers school and community partnerships which the Illumination Fund is supporting with a $1 million grant is providing access and opportunity to children in schools throughout Harlem.

            Through these partnerships, the college is making its expertise available to the community, and – uniquely, among schools of education and universities in general -- sharing accountability for the success of the partnership schools. This work truly exemplifies the notion of public/private partnerships, which I believe, and I think that we all believe is essential to bring being beneficial changes to society. So, thank you, again, Secretary Duncan, you, and we, truly hold the nation's futures in our hands. Let's work together in the years ahead to make sure that the future is as bright one as possible.


Thank you.


Full Transcript

Published Monday, Oct. 26, 2009


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