Education Secretary Praises Teaching but Criticizes Teaching Programs

October 09, 2009

In a speech today at the University of Virginia, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will extoll the teaching profession but criticize the nation's colleges of education, calling them the "neglected stepchild" of higher education.

"Teaching should be one of our most revered professions, and teacher-preparation programs should be among a university's most important responsibilities," Mr. Duncan will tell an audience of aspiring teachers at the university's Curry School of Education, according to an advance copy of his prepared remarks. "But unfortunately that is not the case today."

Colleges of education, the secretary will say, focus too much on theory and too little on developing knowledge in core areas and on clinical training. The colleges pay insufficient attention to student learning, and fail to train students to use data to improve their instruction. And they don't do enough to prepare students to work in high-poverty and high-need schools.

"It is clear that teacher colleges need to become more rigorous and clinical, much like other graduate programs, if we are going to create that army of new teachers," Mr. Duncan is expected to say.

The secretary will also urge colleges of education to do more to measure their students' outcomes, saying too many programs operate as "the Bermuda triangle of higher education."

"Students sail in, but no one knows what happens to them after they come out," he will say. "No one knows which students are succeeding as teachers, which are struggling, and what training was useful or not."

Mr. Duncan's speech, which is being billed as a "call to teach," will focus on the nation's looming teacher shortage and the importance of education in lifting students out of poverty. It comes two weeks before the secretary is scheduled to deliver a major policy statement at Columbia University on teacher preparation.