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Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Duncan: "Mediocre Education Schools Must Change" - ABC News
Education Chief Calls For Teacher Prep Overhaul - Associated Press
Education Reform: Obama Administration Calls For "Revolutionary" Overhaul - Huffington Post
Duncan Urges Overhaul of 'Mediocre' Teacher Colleges - Bloomberg.com
Secretary's Talk About teachers Colleges Isn't All Negative - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Duncan to call for change in teachers' education - CNN
Put Teachers to the test: teaching colleges must learn lessons of reform - New York Daily News
Duncan to Reiterate Criticisms of Teacher Education - Education Week
Few Policy Details in Duncan Speech - Education Week
Improving Education Through Effective Communications - Eduflack
On Education, The U.S. Doesn't Measure Up - Forbes
Test scores should be traced to ed schools, Duncan says - Gothamschools.com
Grading Teachers - New York Post
Teacher Training Termed Mediocre - The New York Times
Duncan says education colleges doing "mediocre job" preparing new ranks of teachers - Orlando Sentinel
Are Teacher Colleges Turning out Mediocrity? - Time
Class Struggle - The Washington Post
U.S. Education Secretary, in N.Y., Gets Tough on Teaching Colleges - WNYC Newsroom


Duncan: "Mediocre" Education Schools Must Change

ABC News
October 22, 2009 12:04PM

ABC News’ Mary Bruce Reports: Education Secretary Arne Duncan told U.S. colleges and universities today that they are doing a “mediocre” job of preparing the nation’s teachers for the future and that they must make major changes to their programs.

"[B]y 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 said in a speech today at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “America’s university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change--not evolutionary tinkering.”

Duncan went on to scold “cash cow” education schools for misdirecting their profits. “For decades, schools of education have been renowned for being cash cows for universities. The large enrollment in education schools and their relatively low overhead have made them profit-centers. But many universities have diverted those profits to more prestigious but under-enrolled graduate departments like physics--while doing little to invest in rigorous educational research and well-run clinical training.”

A 2006 report by former Teachers College president Arthur Levine found that three of five education school alumni said that their training failed to adequately prepare them for the classroom.

While serving as the head of Chicago’s public schools, Duncan said he spoke with hundreds of teachers and found they had two chief complaints about education schools. “First, most of them say they did not get the hands-on practical teacher training about managing the classroom that they needed, especially for high-needs students. And second, they say there were not taught how to use data to differentiate and improve instruction and boost student learning.” 

However, the Secretary said that there is plenty of blame to go around. “The fact is that states, districts, and the federal government are also culpable for the persistence of weak teacher preparation programs. Most states routinely approve teacher education 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 poorly funded and often poorly organized at the district level.”

The administration’s call for improvement comes as the education system prepares to lose an estimated one million teachers over the next decade as Baby Boomers retire from the teaching force.

“By 2014, just five short years from now, the U.S. Department of Education projects that up to one million new teaching positions will be filled by new teachers,” Duncan said. “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 annually. Our ability to attract, and more importantly retain, great talent over the next five years will shape public education for the next 30 years – it is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

The Obama administration is using stimulus dollars to reward states that link student achievement data to the education programs where teachers were trained and credentialed.  In addition, the Education Department is funding an expansion of teacher residency programs in high-need schools across the country.

-Mary Bruce

Education chief calls for teacher prep overhaul

The Associated Press
by Libby Quaid
AP Education Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The The Obama administration is calling for an overhaul of college programs that prepare teachers, saying they are cash cows that do a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the classroom.

 

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for "revolutionary change" in these programs, which prepare at least 80 percent of the nation's teachers.

In a speech prepared for delivery Thursday, Duncan said he has talked to hundreds of great young teachers while serving as Chicago schools chief and later as President Barack Obama's schools chief. The teachers have two complaints about education schools, he said.

 

"First, most of them say they did not get the hands-on teacher training about managing the classroom that they needed, especially for high-needs students," he said in the speech to Columbia University's Teachers College.

 

"And second, they say there were not taught how to use data to improve instruction and boost student learning," Duncan said.

A 2006 report found that three of five education school alumni said their training failed to prepare them to teach, he noted. The report was by Arthur Levine, a former Teachers College president.

 

Their large enrollment and low overhead makes education schools cash cows for their universities, Duncan said. But their profits have been diverted to smaller, more prestigious graduate departments such as physics and have not been spent on research and training for would-be teachers, he said.

 

The government is also to blame, he said. Most states have paper-and-pencil licensing exams that measure basic skills and knowledge but not readiness for the classroom, he said, and local mentoring programs are lacking.

 

And most states and school districts don't link the performance of teachers to their education schools to identify which programs prepare their teachers and which don't, he said.

 

"We should be studying and copying the practices of effective teacher preparation programs, and encouraging the lowest-performers to shape up or shut down," he said.

 

Duncan noted the administration is using stimulus dollars to reward states that tie student achievement data to the education schools where their teachers had credentials. His department also is helping to pay for an expansion of teacher residency programs in high-needs schools.

 

Timing is crucial, Duncan said. A third of veteran teachers and principals are Baby Boomers who are poised to retire, which could create a milllion new teaching positions in the next four years, according to the Department of Education.

 

He noted Obama's goal for America to have more college graduates than any other country by 2020. It's a tall order - only three-quarters of kids graduate from high school, and of those who do, about half go to college.

 

"But to reach that goal, both our K-12 system and our teacher preparation programs have to get dramatically better," Duncan said.


Education Reform: Obama Administration Calls For "Revolutionary" Overhaul


The Huffington Post
by Libby Quaid | 10/22/09 09:49 AM

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is calling for an overhaul of college programs that prepare teachers, saying they are cash cows that do a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the classroom.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called for "revolutionary change" in these programs, which prepare at least 80 percent of the nation's teachers.

In a speech prepared for delivery Thursday, Duncan said he has talked to hundreds of great young teachers while serving as Chicago schools chief and later as President Barack Obama's schools chief. The teachers have two complaints about education schools, he said.

"First, most of them say they did not get the hands-on teacher training about managing the classroom that they needed, especially for high-needs students," he said in the speech to Columbia University's Teachers College.

"And second, they say there were not taught how to use data to improve instruction and boost student learning," Duncan said.

A 2006 report found that three of five education school alumni said their training failed to prepare them to teach, he noted. The report was by Arthur Levine, a former Teachers College president.

Their large enrollment and low overhead makes education schools cash cows for their universities, Duncan said. But their profits have been diverted to smaller, more prestigious graduate departments such as physics and have not been spent on research and training for would-be teachers, he said.

The government is also to blame, he said. Most states have paper-and-pencil licensing exams that measure basic skills and knowledge but not readiness for the classroom, he said, and local mentoring programs are lacking.

And most states and school districts don't link the performance of teachers to their education schools to identify which programs prepare their teachers and which don't, he said.

"We should be studying and copying the practices of effective teacher preparation programs, and encouraging the lowest-performers to shape up or shut down," he said.

Duncan noted the administration is using stimulus dollars to reward states that tie student achievement data to the education schools where their teachers had credentials. His department also is helping to pay for an expansion of teacher residency programs in high-needs schools.

Timing is crucial, Duncan said. A third of veteran teachers and principals are Baby Boomers who are poised to retire, which could create a milllion new teaching positions in the next four years, according to the Department of Education.

He noted Obama's goal for America to have more college graduates than any other country by 2020. It's a tall order – only three-quarters of kids graduate from high school, and of those who do, about half go to college.

"But to reach that goal, both our K-12 system and our teacher preparation programs have to get dramatically better," Duncan said.


Duncan Urges Overhaul of 'Mediocre' Teachers College

by Molly Peterson

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. colleges aren’t adequately preparing teachers for jobs in the nation’s elementary and secondary classrooms, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

“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 said today in a speech at Columbia University in New York.

Duncan said hundreds of teachers have told him their colleges didn’t provide enough hands-on classroom training or instruct them in the use of data to improve student learning. He also cited a 2006 report by Arthur Levine, former president of Columbia’s Teachers College, in which 61 percent of educators surveyed said their colleges didn’t offer enough instruction to prepare them for the classroom.

The nation’s 95,000 public schools will have to hire as many as 1 million educators in the next five years as teachers and principals from the so-called baby-boom generation retire, according to Education Department projections. More than half of the new teachers will have been trained at education colleges, Duncan said.

Teachers colleges are often treated as the “Rodney Dangerfield of higher education,” he said. “Historically, education schools were the institution that got no respect, from the Oval Office to the provost’s office.”

‘Cash Cows’

While many teacher-preparation programs are “cash cows” for universities, the schools often divert those profits to other departments instead of investing them in education programs, he said.

“States, districts, and the federal government are also culpable for the persistence of weak teacher preparation programs,” he said. “Most states routinely approve teacher education 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.”

The Obama administration will seek more federal funding to improve teacher preparation as it works to overhaul the 2002 No Child Left Behind law in the coming months, Duncan said.

“We will encourage partnerships with states and districts that address teacher shortages in high-needs areas, and we will encourage programs committed to results,” he said.

Efforts Under Way

Most education colleges are already taking steps to better prepare teachers for classroom jobs and boost achievement among students in kindergarten through 12th grade, said Sharon Robinson, president of the 800-member American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

“I would like to see much more definitive proposals as to how the federal government can contribute to this change, but I do believe we have a willing partner in this administration,” Robinson, who attended Duncan’s speech, said in a telephone interview.

Duncan, the former head of Chicago’s public schools, is using $100 billion in stimulus funds to try to reshape U.S. education. Almost $70 billion is going to public education in kindergarten through high school. Most of the education money will go to states under a noncompetitive formula set in the stimulus legislation.

The stimulus program also includes $4.35 billion in competitive grants for states that make the most progress in raising academic standards, tracking student gains, boosting teacher quality and improving failing schools. Proposed guidelines for those grants would reward states that publicly link student achievement data to the colleges that issued credentials to their teachers and principals, Duncan said.

Linking Data

“Right now, Louisiana is the only state in the nation that tracks the effectiveness of its teacher preparation programs,” he said. “Every state in the nation ought to be able to do the same.”

Some colleges, including Columbia, Stanford University and the University of Washington, have “first rate” teacher training programs, Duncan said. Columbia trains student teachers to use data to continuously improve their instructional methods, and requires at least two semesters of hands-on classroom work.

Duncan, who has visited more than 30 states to field suggestions for improving public education, said he was encouraged by steps other colleges are taking to improve their teacher-training programs.

“Everywhere I go, I see universities partnering with school districts, opening up lab schools, magnet schools, and charter schools, and creating professional development schools for ed-school students to gain clinical experience,” Duncan said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Molly Peterson in Washington at mpeterson9@bloomberg.net;

Last Updated: October 22, 2009 17:06 EDT


Secretary's Talk About Teachers Colleges Isn't All Negative

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan criticized schools of education for being "mediocre" and states for not demanding more of teacher training.

By Kelly Field
October 22, 2009

It's been a rough month for the nation's teacher colleges.

Two weeks ago, in a speech at the University of Virginia, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called teachers colleges the "neglected stepchild" of higher education. On Thursday, he was back at it, accusing "many, if not most" of the country's 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education of doing a "mediocre" job of preparing potential teachers for the rigors of the modern classroom.

Yet the secretary's remarks, delivered on Thursday in a speech at Columbia University, weren't nearly as negative as the early excerpts of his speech suggested, and some educators who attended the speech left it feeling more inspired than maligned. Although the secretary offered plenty of criticism of teacher-training colleges, he also cited several "shining examples" of colleges and states that have upgraded their programs, including Louisiana, and said he was optimistic that "the seeds of real change have been planted."

He also blamed universities and states for many of the problems confronting teachers colleges, saying it would be "far too simple" to fault colleges of education for the slow pace of reform. He accused universities of using teachers colleges as "cash cows" and "profit centers" to finance "prestigious but underenrolled graduate departments," and he criticized states for approving weak teacher-education programs and licensing exams, and for neglecting teacher outcomes.

"I do not understand when college presidents and deans of the arts and science faculty ignore their teacher-preparation programs—and yet complain about the cost of providing remedial classes to freshmen," Mr. Duncan said.

Sharon P. Robinson, president and chief executive of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said that while some of the secretary's criticism was "hard to hear," the tone of the speech was more upbeat than the one he delivered at the University of Virginia two weeks ago. Many educators found that speech "demoralizing" and "inflammatory" because it ignored the progress that teacher-education programs have made, she said.

"The secretary did not intend this speech to be University of Virginia, Part 2," she said. "I felt that the speech was really instructive. … It pointed us to where we needed to go."

Still, some educators and students said that the secretary painted teachers colleges with too broad a brush, arguing that strong education programs now outnumber weak ones.

"He's half right. There are some programs out there that should close their doors," said P. David Pearson, dean of the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Education. "But most of the programs I know … are really solid."

Sandra L. Robinson, dean of the University of Central Florida's College of Education, agreed, saying teachers colleges have already undergone the sort of "sea change" that Mr. Duncan called for in his speech.

"I think there have been radical changes to colleges of education in the last 10 years," she said.

Others said the secretary's criticisms of teachers colleges were fair but complained that his proposed solutions were too vague. Though Mr. Duncan cited several examples of "real improvements" and "change," at the college, state, and school-district levels, and promised more federal aid for teacher-education programs, some educators felt that his solutions lacked specifics.

"I was left disappointed with the 'next steps' part of his talk," said Jon D. Snyder, dean of Bank Street College's Graduate School of Education. "I heard there was a lot more money than ever before but did not hear a compelling vision, let alone a coherent set of strategies, for how to improve things."

Wendy Katz, a second-year student at Bank Street College of Education and a former education aide to then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, agreed.

"The secretary's speech was long on criticism, but short on constructive solutions," she said. "I am hoping this is just the beginning."

Duncan to call for change in teacher' education


By Sally Holland, CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is expected to push for reforms in how teachers are taught when he speaks at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York on Thursday.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is expected to say colleges profit from education schools but reinvest little.

According to advanced quotes released by the U.S. Department of Education, he will say that "schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom." He will call for a "revolutionary" change in teacher preparation programs.

Duncan estimates that about 200,000 new teachers will enter U.S. school systems annually.

"Schools of education have been renowned for being cash cows for universities," Duncan will say, according to his released remarks. "The large enrollment in education schools and their relatively low overhead have made them profit centers."

Duncan will say that universities divert the profits from education schools to other departments while doing little to invest in educational research and clinical training.

Duncan has focused on teacher accountability since he took office in January. Under the criteria to receive stimulus money under the Department of Education's Race to the Top program, states that link student achievement data to teacher evaluations will be rewarded.


Put teachers to the test: Teaching colleges must learn lessons of reform

Sunday, October 25th, 2009, 4:00 AM

The Obama administration is onto something big. It is urging states to overhaul infamously inadequate teacher preparation programs to demonstrate they are minting teachers who know what they're doing.

More power to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. And more power to New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who are singing from a similar songbook.

At Columbia Teachers College last week, Duncan threw the book at schools of education.

He called them "cash cows," profit centers with low overhead and scant academic heft.

He criticized them for giving teachers a weak foundation in subjects like math, history, English and science, saying students "don't know the content because too often they have been taught by teachers who don't know the content well."

And he said the feds would, with the help of a $4 billion grant fund, spur states to track how successful the graduates of individual teacher preparation programs turn out to be in the classroom.

That's a terrific idea, and revolutionary. Just one state - Louisiana - dares to connect teacher training to classroom results. It's learning loads about what works.

New York's education leaders say they want to follow suit and get back on the cutting edge. Let's see them teach by example.

Duncan to Reiterate Criticisms of Teacher Education

Education Secretary Arne Duncan doesn't appear poised to go easier on schools of education in remarks he's making this morning at Columbia University's Teachers College. As you may recall, his remarks earlier this month on the theme caught some flak from the teacher-ed community.

News of this morning's speech has already hit the wires, and here are some advance remarks we've gotten from the Department of Education:

"...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. America's university-based teacher-preparation programs need revolutionary change—not evolutionary tinkering."

"In my seven years as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools and in my current job, I've had hundreds of conversations with great young teachers. And they echo many of the same concerns about ed schools voiced in the Levine report and in earlier decades. In particular they say two things about their training in ed school. First, most of them say they did not get the hands-on teacher training about managing the classroom that they needed, especially for high-needs students. And second, they say there were not taught how to use data to improve instruction and boost student learning."

Duncan does seem to spread the blame for "mediocre" programs a little broader this time. He'll note that states haven't really done their part in closing down poor programs, and that universities often treat the programs as "cash cows" and direct resources to more prestigious departments. Teacher tests don't measure how well teachers actually teach, he adds. And districts often shortchange mentoring programs.

And he'll compliment the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education for its new reaccreditation standards and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education for getting behind new models, like the teacher-residency programs. And he adds, "I am optimistic that, despite the obstacles to reform, real change is under way."

Near the end of his speech, he says that strong preparation programs include a "strong, substantial" field experience, a focus on classroom management, and training for candidates on how to review and make use of student-performance data. He plugs the teacher residencies, which the department just spent millions of dollars to promote.

But am I the only one that sees a little bit of tension between the thrust of this speech and the proposed Race to the Top criteria? After all, under those proposals, states would get additional competitive points for having alternative routes to teacher certification. Though alternative routes vary, many of them don't have all that long of a student-teaching component. By comparison, in the residency model, candidates aren't the "teacher of record" until after they've spent a year under the tutelage of a full-time classroom teacher.

Maybe the administration feels both routes can be successful, but this difference does seem to complicate states' abilities to hold both types of programs to the same set of high standards.

Are you a professor or dean at a college of education? Are you listening to the speech or watching it in person? Want to share your comments? Post them here, or e-mail me directly at ssawchuk@epe.org.

We'll also have a full story up for you later today.

Few Policy Details in Duncan Speech

Like many of you, I just finished watching Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Teachers College speech. We'll have more reaction for you later, but just to make a general point, few new policy tidbits emerged, even during the Q & A.

The genial, if always on-message Duncan didn't really say much we haven't heard before. About the third time he began answering a question with the line, "We have $10 billion in discretionary funds at our disposal," the audience started giggling.

(You've got to hand it to Margaret Spellings. As EdSec, she was ever-quotable, with her talk of Ivory soap and big-girl panties.)

I was particularly intrigued by a question from one audience member, who wanted to know whether the administration would support "incorporating a multisensory phonics-based reading program" into teacher training.

An interesting question, now that funding previously earmarked for Reading First apparently will be shifted to Title I. But Duncan didn't bite. "We're going to look to those places that are getting great results for students," he said.

Retaining Teacher Training

Big to-dos this afternoon up at Columbia University, Teachers College.  Speaking before a packed house of students, teacher educators, and reps from the education policy community, EdSec Arne Duncan continued his push for improving teacher preparation in the United States.  Duncan challenged education schools to "make better outcomes for students the overarching mission" of today's teacher preparation programs.

Clearly, today's remarks at TC were "good cop," compared with Duncan's "bad cop" words a few weeks ago at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education.  Duncan praises AACTE and NCATE for their efforts to improve the quality of teacher preparation and the assessment and evaluation of prospective and new teachers.  He recognized the good works going on in states like Louisiana and New York.  And he applauds the innovations happening at institutions such as Emporia State University, Alverno College, and Black Hills State University.  He honored the good work of teachers, while calling for a common level of quality and effectiveness at schools of education across the United States.  The EdSec's full remarks can be found here.

As Duncan embarks on his national effort to retrain our models of teacher training, he raises some essential issues. With so much new money soon funneling into school districts for teacher training, hiring, retention, and reward, teacher quality is a must-discuss topic.  If we want tomorrow's teachers to succeed (particularly if we are going to measure them based on student assessment data), we need to prepare today's education students for these new paradigms and expectations.

One of the logical next questions coming out of Duncan's TC speech is which are the IHEs that are failing to live up to these new expectations?  One would be hard-pressed to find a teacher's college that would say they are failing at their mission.  This is particularly true when we think about their actual job description.  For decades now, the task before our colleges of education has been simple.  The taught the cores of both content and pedagogy.  They were expected to graduate a significant number of their students (at grad rates similar to the institution as a whole).  Their graduates were expected to pass state licensure exams.  And those graduates were expected to find employment with local school districts (or at least districts somewhere in the state).  These were our expectations of our ed schools, and based on these standards, most were indeed living up to the expectations.

Through his rhetoric, though, Duncan is looking to dramatically change the rubric by which we measure teachers. Teacher quality measures are all about using student test data to determine teacher effectiveness.  We are no longer seeking "highly qualified" teachers, as mandated in NCLB, but are now seeking highly effective ones. Clearly, the teaching profession is facing major changes.

But we need to learn to walk before we can truly run this race.  Through years of research, we know the components of effective teacher training, including strong content and pedagogical training, intense clinical experience, and mentoring and ongoing development once one hits the classroom.  This is particularly true of hard-to-staff schools and those being targeted by Duncan for school turnaround efforts, where quick-and-easy, low-impact teacher training efforts simply leave new teachers unprepared for the challenges of the modern-day classroom.

How do we make these components of a high-quality teacher education program the norm, particularly for those schools serving historically disadvantaged communities?  How do we find the balance between the inputs that go into building an effective teacher and the outcomes that prove it?  How do we ensure that teachers are the primary drivers of school innovation and improvement, and not merely stakeholders to whom new changes happen to?

And just as important, how do we build the data systems to prove it?  Across the nation, we have doubts about the power of our current collection methods.  We want to use student data to evaluate and incentivize teachers, but need to make sure we have the collection mechanisms in place to do so.  We need to break down firewalls and strengthen our connections.  But Duncan's charge forces us to take it a big step further.  We collect student performance data.  We are to use that data to evaluate the performance of current teachers.  And now we want to use that data to determine those teachers colleges and alternative certification programs that are doing the job (along with those who are not).  A noble goal, but not one we are equipped to deal with, at least not with our current data systems.  

Before we start calling out individual schools of education for failing to live up to the expectations set by the EdSec (and Eduflack will admit there are quite a number that would make that list), we need to first set a clear rubric for how we are measuring effective teacher education.  Until then, we will simply be assembling a hit list of "laggard" colleges based on personal opinion, anecdotes, bias, or wild conjecture.  And while that may make good fodder for the blogs and faculty senate meetings, it is hardly the stuff that a new renaissance in teacher education should be based.

The EdSec is definitely on the right track.  But we must be sure we are making decisions based on good data and even better expectations.  We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the quality and effectiveness of teacher preparation.  That means one chance to get it right.  Before we start asking colleges and universities to make changes to drive innovation and improvement, we need to be clear on what we are asking for and how we will measure it.  It is the only way to ensure we are truly improving, and not merely changing.

On Education, The U.S. Doesn't Measure Up

Mark Rice, 10.22.09, 05:50 PM EDT
How about committing a bigger share of the national budget?

Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, has been charged with reshaping public K-12 education. On Thursday he spoke forcefully about the need to improve the quality of teacher education in the U.S., but that's only part of the puzzle. Just what is he up against in the fight to make the nation competitive?

It has become commonplace that when basic competencies are tested, students in the U.S. do not compare favorably to students in other countries. There is plenty of data out there to support this conclusion. One useful measure for making such comparisons is provided by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized educational assessment of 15-year-olds administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). By testing students near the end of their compulsory schooling years, PISA measures the cumulative outcome of primary and secondary education.

According to PISA, in 2003 the U.S. ranked a middling 18th out of 40 nations in terms of mean reading scores. In 2006, American schoolchildren ranked 29th out of 57 participating countries in the mean PISA science score. American students fared worse in math, ranking 35th in the mean mathematics score. Only five of the 30 OECD member nations (Greece, Italy, Mexico, Portugal and Turkey) had lower math scores than the U.S. More depressing still is the fact that the U.S. saw a decline in mathematics scores between 2003 and 2006. In fact, the U.S. ranked an abysmal 34th out of 39 countries in terms of "math progress" between those years, despite the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002.

There are no simple solutions to these educational problems, but any broad-based rethinking of public education needs to include increased funding. Because of the 10th amendment to the Constitution, public education policies in the U.S. are controlled by the individual states. Funding is primarily done at the local level. Despite this, the federal government's contribution to K-12 public education rose from 5.7% of total education spending in 1990 to 8.3% in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Education Web site. A substantial portion of this increase came on the heels of NCLB.

Declining property tax revenues at the local level, and sales tax receipts at the state level, mean that in the coming years it will be difficult to increase educational spending at those levels. As NCLB has made clear, the federal government recognizes that it has a vested interest in improving public education. Nevertheless, the federal government lags far behind most other countries in its commitment to education. According to the United Nations Children's Fund, the U.S. federal government spends only 3% of its total budget on education, ranking the U.S. 134th out of 155 countries in that category.

The countries that spend the largest chunk of their federal budgets are all poor, with eight of the top 10 in that category being African nations. However, the 30 nations of the OECD spend, on average, more than 9% of their federal budgets on education. Taiwan and Finland, the countries that score highest in the PISA assessments for math, science and reading, each spend at least 10% of the federal budgets on education.

Test scores should be traced to ed schools, Duncan says

by Anna Phillips and Maura Walz

U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan speaking at a meeting of the Children's Aid Society at Teachers College this morning.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called this morning for states to link student test data not only back to teachers, but also to the programs that trained them. New York State education officials said they are already working on it.

Speaking to a packed auditorium at Columbia University, Duncan criticized education schools for failing to graduate classroom-ready teachers. He said there needs to be a way to determine which programs are working.

“It’s a simple but obvious idea,” Duncan said. “Colleges of education and district officials ought to know which teacher preparation programs are effective and which need fixing. The power of competition and disclosure can be a powerful tonic for programs stuck in the past.”

Duncan said he will use the competitive stimulus package funds known as the “Race to the Top” program to pressure states to use student data to evaluate teacher preparation programs.

After Duncan’s speech, state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and education commissioner David Steiner said that Duncan’s speech was in line with their own visions of change.

“It was a clarion call to do what needs to be done,” Tisch said of Duncan’s speech. “The secretary articulated the vision that [Steiner] has been talking about.”

Plans are already underway to link student data back to teachers and their training programs, Tisch added. “It’s all done,” she said, noting that the state had already begun discussions with school districts, teachers unions, and universities.

Steiner cautioned that before the state began casting judgment on education schools, it had to revisit and perhaps rethink the state’s tests, which have been criticized for being too easy.

“The richer the data system, the more able we are to track back to the education schools,” he said.

Steiner noted that the purpose of linking student data to teachers and training programs is informative, not punitive. “The core of this is to give teachers tools,” he said.

Margaret Crocco, head of Columbia Teachers College’s department of arts and humanities, said that figuring out how to link teacher training programs to student achievement will be a complicated process. “It’s not a simple direct line of relationships,” she said. “But in the spirit of the secretary’s approach, we do need to understand what works and what doesn’t.”

Duncan also called for an increase in the amount of time teachers-to-be spend in class, praising programs that pair student teachers with mentors for year-long “residencies” in the classroom. New York’s first residency program was launched this year by Hunter College, and Columbia’s Teachers College will launch a similar program next fall.

Earlier this morning, Duncan gave the keynote address at the Children’s Aid Society’s Biannual Community Schools Practicum. Echoing previous comments, he called for community schools like the ones he helped develop in Chicago to be come the “norm.”

“The more our schools become community centers, offer GED classes, ESL classes, potluck dinners … the more families are engaged, the more schools become the heart of family life, the better our students will do,” Duncan said.

In districts that are fighting poverty and high drop out rates, schools can no longer operate from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. he said. Once regular school hours end, nonprofit after-school organizations such as the YMCA or the Boys and Girls Club have to keep students engaged and out of trouble.

Speaking to an audience of philanthropists, Duncan warned that community schools won’t work as one-time investments. “This has to become every school. This is not something you can invest in for three years. You have to stay the course,” he said.

In the question and answer session that followed, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, pressed Duncan on how the federal government would force local school districts to create community schools.

“There has to be leverage in the federal role or regulations pushing mayors or others who don’t want to do it,” Weingarten said.

“The number one issue that we’ve seen that stops the kind of work that you just talked about is not money and not the use of time but the lack of coordination,” Weingarten said. “I’m wondering, whether the department can find a way to incentivize that coordination so it’s not always coming from the bottom up.”

A tired-looking Duncan, who was minutes away from delivering his speech on teacher preparation, said that part of the solution could be installing mayoral control in more cities. “Thinking through that is a really important thing for us to do,” he said.


Grading teachers


By Yoav Gonen

A data system being developed by the state Education Department to track students from pre-kindergarten through college could also be used to evaluate teachers based on how their kids do, The Post has learned.

Linking student performance and teacher ratings -- long opposed by teachers unions -- is part of an effort to grade graduate schools of education.

While the city has been using its own system to tie student data to teacher effectiveness since last year, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has agreed to use the information only to guide teacher instruction rather than to rate teachers.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan drew attention to state education data systems yesterday during a speech at Columbia's Teachers College, where he called for a "sea change" in the way graduate schools of education operate.


Teacher training termed Mediocre


by Jennifer Medina
Published: October 22, 2009

Calling scores of education school programs “mediocre,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Thursday implored universities to significantly change the way they prepare teachers to run classrooms, saying a “revolutionary change” was needed to train as many as one million new teachers in five years.

During a speech at Columbia University’s Teachers College, Mr. Duncan said that too often the schools of education were simply seen as a “cash cow” for universities, because they are relatively inexpensive to run and have high enrollment.

“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,” he said.

Mr. Duncan said that he had met hundreds of teachers who complained that they did not get enough practical training with classroom behaviors, particularly with poor students.

A report by a former president of Teachers College, Arthur Levine, found that roughly 60 percent of education school alumni said that their programs did not prepare them to teach.

The debate over teacher education is particularly loud in New York City, which has a number of schools.

Mr. Duncan noted that more than half of the country’s teachers are trained at colleges of education and only a fraction come through alternative programs such as Teach for America. But nontraditional programs have continued to grow in New York City; roughly a third of the teachers hired in 2008 came through Teach for America and the city’s Teaching Fellows program, which places rookie teachers in high-needs schools.

David M. Steiner, the new state education commissioner, was previously dean of the education school at Hunter College, and has made similar critiques of traditional training programs. When he was appointed in July, he said the fact that the state’s licensing exam had a pass rate of more than 90 percent showed that the bar was too low.

While Mr. Duncan was generally critical, he was careful to praise programs at some education schools, including Teachers College, that require intense practical training.

Duncan says education colleges doing "mediocre job" preparing new ranks of teachers

posted by Leslie Postal on Oct 22, 2009 2:15:38 PM

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a speech this morning that America's schools of education need to make "revolutionary" changes in how they prepare would-be teachers for the classroom.

"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 said in a speech at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York.

Duncan said a "sea change" is needed in teacher training programs, if new teachers are to help students meet the demands of a world where a "it is impossible to drop out of school and land a good job."

Education colleges must focus, he said, more on helping new teacher learn the practical skills of running classrooms and managing difficult behavior and to use data to improve their instruction. They also must make sure they know the content they will teach -- and know it well.

You can find his speech here.

In the next four years, a third of the nation's teaching force could retire, meaning that up to one million new teachers could be hired to replace them, he said..

Education colleges already provide more than half of the country's new teachers and will continue to play a key role in training new ones, Duncan said, especially in helping the country deal with "a shortage of great teachers in the schools and communities where they are needed most."

But these colleges -- criticized for decades -- do not always have strong academic programs, he said. Universities should reform them, he added, and states and the federal government must help.

In particular, Duncan said states should track which schools graduate the best teachers, something Louisiana has started doing. Louisiana is the only state, he said, that is using student test scores to look at teachers -- and then the effectiveness of their college teacher preparation programs.

Duncan said he'd like to see more of that.

Interestingly, my colleague Luis Zaragoza attended a meeting of Florida education college officials last week. Education Commissioner Eric Smith also attended the gathering at University of Central Florida -- and he encountered some push back when he made comments similar to Duncan's.

In short, the Florida educators didn't seem so happy with the notion they weren't doing a good job.

The Florida Department of Education is already "engaged in a systemwide review of teacher preparation," according to a just-out report done by the Florida Senate's education committee.

We'll post more about that when we know more.

Are Teacher Colleges Turning out Mediocrity?


By Gilbert Cruz, Friday, Oct. 23, 2009

There has been a mantra of sorts going around education circles over the past few years: "Nothing matters more to a child's education than good teachers." Anyone who's ever had a Ms. Green or a Mr. Miller whom they remember fondly instinctively knows this to be true. And while "Who's teaching my kid?" is an important question for parents to ask, there may be an equally essential (and rarely remarked upon) question — "Who's teaching my kid's teachers?"

On Thursday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan went to Columbia University's Teachers College, the oldest teacher-training school in the nation, and delivered a speech blasting the education schools that have trained the majority of the 3.2 million teachers working in U.S. public schools today. "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," he said to an audience of teaching students who listened with more curiosity than ire — this was Columbia University after all, and they knew Duncan wasn't talking to them. It was a damning, but not unprecedented, assessment of teacher colleges, which have long been the stepchildren of the American university system and a frequent target of education reformers' scorn over the past quarter-century. (See pictures of the college dorm's evolution.)

But Duncan's speech raises another question: If most teacher colleges are "mediocre," does that mean the teachers they produce are equally lackluster?

One of the major problems with answering that question, says David Steiner, New York's education commissioner, is that we simply don't know, can't know. It is nearly impossible in many states to tell which teachers produce the best student outcomes, let alone which teacher colleges. "And if we can't identify the skills that make a difference in terms of student learning, then what we're saying is that teaching is an undefinable art, as opposed to something that can be taught," says Steiner. Until recently, Steiner served as dean of Hunter College's School of Education, where he was a vocal critic of the typical ed-school approach, in which teachers-in-training study theories and philosophies of education at the expense of practical, in-the-classroom experience. Steiner maintains that institutions need to turn their eyes toward the practical and away from the hypothetical. (See pictures of a public boarding school.)

Which brings people like Steiner to a central concern: What good are teachers' credentials if we can't tell how much their students are learning?

To that end, Duncan said, "I am urging every teacher-education program today to make better outcomes for students the overarching mission that propels all their efforts." He suggested that more states mimic a model currently being used in Louisiana in which student test scores in grades 4-9 are traced back to their teachers, who are in turn traced back to their place of training, whether it be an ed school or an alternative certification program like Teach for America. (See TIME's special report on paying for college.)

"If you want to get more-effective teachers, one of the obvious places to begin is to look at the supply side," says George Noell, a researcher at Louisiana State University who has worked for several years on the state's Teacher Quality initiative. "You need to know who's coming into teaching, how they were prepared and where they were prepared. Then you can make a link between who taught a kid, who trained the teacher and the overall efficacy of that teacher." Although such measures may seem a prelude to punitive measures on ed schools, "we aren't seeking to close people down," says Noell. "That's not the point." Rather, the ideal situation would be to have schools use the feedback to improve the quality of their instruction. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, for example, increased admissions standards and added other programs after data from the initiative alerted the school to its weaknesses. (Read "From Iraq to Class: Turning Troops into Teachers.")

Concern over the ability of teacher colleges to produce effective teachers has long existed and only increased as the focus of education policy has turned to accountability and data. As Duncan points out, one of his predecessors, Richard Riley, put ed colleges on notice a full decade ago. The difference, as Duncan never misses an opportunity to say, is that the Federal Government now has financial incentives through which to effect change — a $4.35 billion pot of competitive innovation grants and $43 million to support "residency" programs that put budding teachers in classrooms for longer periods of time under the watchful eye of a veteran teacher, in much the same way that medical residents are supervised by seasoned staff for their first few years out of med school. (Read "Parent Academies Help Mom and Dad Face School.")

Smart as they may be, trace-back programs are still likely to meet resistance. "Who wakes up one morning and says, 'I want to be publicly accountable?' " says Noell of teacher colleges. "That's kind of scary for anybody. Nobody wants to be embarrassed."

Class Struggle

by Jay Matthews

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in prepared remarks circulating in advance of a speech Thursday, accuses many of the nation's schools of education of doing "a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom."

My colleague Nick Anderson, on the national education beat, and I found the advance text a meaty read.

Duncan's speech, to be delivered at Columbia University, goes further than any other I can remember from an education secretary in ripping into the failure of education schools to ready teachers for the challenges of the day, particularly the demand for academic growth in all students.


Duncan's speech points out two major deficiencies in education school teaching with which most critics would agree: They do a bad job teaching students how to manage disruptive classrooms, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, and they don't offer much in the way of training new teachers how to use data to improve their classroom results.

The excerpts of the speech we were given, however, did not appear to address one part of the classroom management problem that is often raised when successful teachers explain how they learned to keep students in order. These teachers often say they learned by doing, by facing a class alone without help, trying one thing after another until something worked for them. Education school deans have been critical of the Teach for America program, which pushes recent college graduates into classrooms with only a few weeks training, but teachers who have survived that toss-them-into-the-water approach say it works better than class management classes at their teacher's colleges.

Some education school professors say they try to teach class management but students are incapable of understanding what they are taught until they are in the classroom, struggling with unruly students. New programs have tried to create more time for students to face disruptive classes, but that is hard to arrange, since the most dysfunctional urban schools are unlikely to seek relationships with student teacher programs, and the program leaders are leery of such schools.

Here are excerpts circulated in advance by Team Duncan:

"[B]y 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. America’s university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change--not evolutionary tinkering. But I am optimistic that, despite the obstacles to reform, real change is underway.”

###

“[M]ajor 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 annually.”

###

“I am urging every teacher education program today to make better outcomes for students the overarching mission that propels all their efforts. America’s great educational challenges require that this new generation of well-prepared teachers significantly boost student learning and increase college-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 preparation programs have to get dramatically better. The need is urgent--and the time to cling to the status quo has passed.”

###

“For decades, schools of education have been renowned for being cash cows for universities. The large enrollment in education schools and their relatively low overhead have made them profit-centers. But many universities have diverted those profits to more prestigious but under-enrolled graduate departments like physics--while doing little to invest in rigorous educational research and well-run clinical training.”

###

“Now the fact is that states, districts, and the federal government are also culpable for the persistence of weak teacher preparation programs. Most states routinely approve teacher education 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 poorly funded and often poorly organized at the district level.”

###

“The draft 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 is funding a large expansion of teacher residency programs in high-needs schools, including one to be run out of Teachers College.”

###

“In the end, I don’t think the ingredients of a good teacher preparation 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 student learning and prepares students to teach diverse pupils 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.”

U.S. Education Secretary, in N.Y., Gets Tough on Teaching Colleges


by Beth Fertig
New York, NY October 23, 2009

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is calling on teaching colleges and universities to demand more from their graduates. In a speech at Teachers College at Columbia University yesterday, he said too many other institutions are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the 21st century classrooms. WNYC’s Beth Fertig has more.

REPORTER: The challenges for the nation’s teaching force are huge. With baby boomers approaching retirement age, the U.S. Department of Education expects up to a million new teaching positions will be filled by newcomers in the next five years. And President Obama has called on teachers to help raise high school graduation rates well above the current level of 70 percent.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says one way of improving the workforce is for states to create data systems that can track the performance of new teachers once they get into the classroom.

DUNCAN: 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.

REPORTER: Duncan singled out Louisiana as the only state in the nation that tracks the effectiveness of its teacher education programs. He said the federal education department should be supporting programs like that. And with billions of dollars in stimulus funds, now it can.

DUNCAN: What we want to do simply is invest in what works. We want to put unprecedented resources behind states, behind districts, behind non-profits, behind universities.

REPORTER: New York’s new Education Commissioner, David Steiner, was in the audience and said the state is currently working on a data system that could someday work like Louisiana’s. He said that focus on teacher effectiveness, and Duncan’s call to expand residency programs for student teachers to give them more experience, have changed how the profession is viewed.

STEINER: I think if you’d had this conversation five years ago you would have have said this was unthinkable. Even five years ago, certainly, 10, a focus on teaching the skills that will make the difference in the classroom. And challenging ed. schools to focus on that rich clinical training I think is really important.

REPORTER: But there are lots of questions about the use of data. The teachers union has fought against using student test scores in New York to determine tenure. And there are deep concerns about whether tests are accurate measurements of student achievement. The state education department has said it’s raising its standards after complaints that New York’s tests aren’t as challenging as the national exams.

Margaret Crocco, chair of the Department of Arts and Humanities at Teachers College, agrees with the premise of measuring teachers.

CROCCO: For example law and medicine are not doing that. So education is actually out front in trying to make these analysis of their graduates. I think that we are beginning to have enough research to say confidently that there is a value added dimension of teachers in terms of student processes and student outcomes.

REPORTER: But, she warned, it’s also hard to rate teachers because not all classrooms are equal.

Secretary Duncan was asked by a couple of educators in the audience about whether higher salaries would attract better teachers. He said an extra 10 or $15,000 might help attract good educators to the neediest districts. But he said money alone isn’t the answer – and suggested that more teachers would stay in the profession if they felt supported. For WNYC I’m Beth Fertig.
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