Letter from the President
Published in Annual Report - 2011
Two recent documentary films have focused on teachers as the key variable in determining the success of American public education.
Waiting for “Superman,” released in Fall 2010, accuses big-city school bureaucracies and the teachers’ unions of enabling bad teachers to perpetuate mediocrity and low student achievement in our public schools.
American Teacher, which came out this past fall, portrays teachers as heroes—dedicated, resourceful people who work daily miracles while laboring under conditions that most educated professionals would never accept.
I will make no secret of the fact that I share the latter view. As a former teacher and long-time observer of the education scene, I can personally attest that people who become teachers aren’t in it for the money or the perks. They give their maximum effort and make great sacrifices because they care passionately about their students and understand that today’s children are the nation’s future. I also believe that a large majority of teachers run the gamut from very good to great.
I applaud American Teacher for challenging us to consider what teachers could do if, at the very least, we paid them better and provided them with adequate instructional materials and well-equipped classrooms.
But material compensation and support are only part of the equation. The wish most consistently and powerfully voiced by teachers in the film—and by the countless others with whom I come into contact throughout the year—is for society to show them the respect accorded to doctors, lawyers, engineers and other skilled professionals.
Above all, we as a society need to recognize that teaching demands great expertise—and that acquiring that expertise entails preparation that provides a rich and seamless blend of research and practice.
In my view, Teachers College is among the leaders in preparing educators and education leaders in the United States and throughout the world. As the special report in this Annual Report shows, our faculty are conducting research that is advancing understanding of teaching and learning. Our graduates constitute an unmatched network of school leaders and teachers who mentor our students in field placements across New York City each year. And the courses that our teaching students take help them to understand their field experiences in the context of critical, cutting-edge research.
Now that 45 states have agreed to adopt the ambitious new Common Core State Standards, intended to provide a clear roadmap for preparing children for college and the workforce, the value of preparing teachers with an education that seamlessly links research to practice has never been more important than right now. Thankfully, Teachers College is more than up to the task.