• August 30, 2015

Education Secretary Praises Teaching but Criticizes Teaching Programs

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.


1. wftate - October 09, 2009 at 03:47 pm

Treating teaching with respect has nothing to do with teacher education programs. It has everything to do with money. So let me understand this logic, he would advocate for alternative teaching options (Teach for America etc.) that provide little to no rigor or clinical oversight while calling for more rigor (whatever that means) and clinical oversight in traditional programs. If rigor is a stronger disciplinary focus or liberal arts perspective, then say so. His comments about the status of rigor and clinical oversight in teacher education programs are based on what empirical evidence and normative standards? It is always fair to call for improvement. My hope is the speech includes the many examples of excellence that exist and a road map forward. What is his vision? What are the related tools to support this change? Are the tools forthcoming? Addressing these questions are core to his duties. Another hack speech built on illogical arguments and policy configurations strikes me as unproductive.

2. ludlow37 - October 09, 2009 at 04:17 pm

I second the comments of No.1. We all know of some schools that merit his criticism. But why the general condemnation when there are plenty of positive models? Why call on students to teach and simultaneously slam the places they'll go for training?

3. cemihovich - October 09, 2009 at 04:25 pm

While I appreciate Secretary Duncan's comments about teacher preparation being a university wide responsibility, it is very disappointing to see another diatribe being launched against colleges of education as if they conformed to a "one size fits all" model. Most reputable, nationally ranked colleges with which I am familiar are very rigorous in terms of ensuring students have clinical experiences in high poverty schools, collecting systemic data on outcomes related to student achievement (required for NCATE accreditation) and focusing on student learning by increasing subject matter knowledge. Perhaps Secretary Duncan should ask his staff to conduct more thorough research to differentiate strong colleges from weak ones on these critical variables before his next national speech. The field deserves better from the Obama administration than to hear the same tired arguments we heard from the Bush administration. Real and necessary improvements can only be achieved through honest and meaningful conversations based on empirical evidence from effective teacher education programs across the nation.

4. ophe07 - October 09, 2009 at 04:45 pm

Let me guess comments 1-3 all came from people in colleges of education. At some point we need to stop whining and engaging in knee-jerk reactions and start taking a hard look at ourselves and realize we have a lot of work to do and what we have been doing hasn't been working. I agree with Sec. Duncan major change is needed. Currently we are failing our students. These are kids' lives we are talking about and all you can do is argue for the status quo? Quit defending yourselves and get to work!

5. 11134078 - October 09, 2009 at 04:57 pm

It would help if teacher ed students didn't so frequently come from the bottom of the academic barrel.

6. elenizl - October 09, 2009 at 05:02 pm

Given the wonderful diversity of families everywhere -- it sure is time to retire the words "neglected stepchild"!

7. 11290954 - October 09, 2009 at 05:03 pm

To comment #5 they don't. To comment #4 Challenging the logic or the lack of evidence behind gross generalizations such as those represented in the Secretary's speech is neither whining nor defensive. These are critical tools in getting to the truth. To the Secretary, come spend some time at a real, current university-based teacher preparation program, and review with us the evidence of our programs and candidate performance--Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, Ca.

8. weeson - October 09, 2009 at 05:08 pm

To comment #5, they really don't, particularly at the University of Virginia. The Curry School is one of the top schools of education in the country and their five year BAMT program was the first in the country.

9. cemihovich - October 09, 2009 at 05:27 pm

To comment #4 - First, US society at a whole is failing students in very troubing ways. Please read Paul Krugman's column in the NY Times today. Second, yes I am at a college of education and I would be the first to point out the issues we still need to address for continuing improvement. But I would also note that we are working in over 250 high poverty schools across Florida, and we have collected hard data to document where faculty and student interns in partnership with school district personnel are making substantive improvements in children's learning and access to educational opportunities. My point is that Secretary Duncan needs to have more evidence based examples of programs that are working and to provde greater support for them, while taking action against programs that cannot document similar successes.

10. everettfrost - October 09, 2009 at 05:44 pm

Of course it looks neglected if your east coast, wdc beltway perspective is doctoral research universities. The nation started its quality teacher education programs at normal schools which became the current AASCU institutions interested in access, close student-faculty contact, cooperative education experiences and stewards of place (region where the schools are).

It is easy to sit in the national capital or a state capital and throw slings and arrows but how much does the Secretary of Education know personally about how teacher education is delivered in the United States. Perhaps he should start his query at the AASCU offices.

11. anonymous212 - October 09, 2009 at 06:26 pm

Ironic that he chose to give this speech at a school that has recently taken the philosophy that it is not interested in clinical training and is slashing programs left and right in favor of becoming more research-oriented. It's hard for faculty to pay more attention to student learning when the pressures on them to acquire grants and publish research is so great that they don't have the time to be good teachers themselves.

12. alectesta - October 09, 2009 at 07:10 pm

#10-Good to read your post, you cranky old anthropologist. Let's do ring GM at AASCUU and hear from him.

13. 11239961 - October 09, 2009 at 10:00 pm

There is of course a Trojan horse in Mr. Duncan's move, as there is in his forthcoming advance of charter schools. What is happening is that ed schools are being called to move even further away from the marketplace of ideas than they are now. It is a well-known problem in higher education, but the actual causes are less well known. Yet by calling on ed schools to move away from theory-development and theory-stewardship - calling on them to move away from practice as the ascent of the teacher as scholar (public intellectual) in a liberal arts sense, toward the teacher as technician ("clinician") - Mr. Duncan is urging schools of ed to separate even further from the capacity to recognize first principles than his predecessor, Ms. Spellings. Parallel movements are afoot in medicine, law, and a number of other professional schools in the Academy.

'Accountability' is the patina, the pabulum, the moral rhetoric, a ruse, a guise and it is the name of the Trojan horse, with small-minded, nervous little empiricists, positivists, and Hayek's 'quantity adjusters' ready to spring forth from its belly to launch an attack (measure, quantify, objectify, etc.) on legitimate and reliable processes of human development and flourishing known for centuries.

U.S. ed schools have, since the late-1980s, been on a trajectory of descent, one that has moved them away from the proximity of wider/deeper/more diverse sources of knowledge and skills (located within the academic disciplines of the university, and the liberal arts colleges) and closer to the rule system of the State and quasi-state outfits called accrediting agencies (a location of significantly less knowledge). People in the know reading this will know the main culprits/heroes (as your point of view permits) of the descent - no need for names here. Follow the money: schools of ed got rich, and are getting richer, in this arrangement, yet the preparation of teachers has hardly improved and has likely become much worse than in the 1950s and 1960s. Schools of ed may lose status with the academic disciplines but on net balance, they gain status evidenced by their courtesan activities with the State and its institutions.

The trade off is a real one: they increasingly adjust nearly all of their productive activities (research, teaching, policy, service) within narrow, technical forms of practice and research. They sacrifice academic freedom for a casual wink-and-nod conformity. Mr. Duncan does not want theory or theoretical pursuits to interfere with this practical arrangement; too much cost of dissention in theory; theory might awaken the conscience; we might recall what the nature and purpose of the education good really is, and that might somehow prevent a collectivization. As a result, schools of education have little ability today and virtually none tomorrow to call into question the direction of the rule structure or processes of the education. It is practice as a descent, reinforced by uniformity of thought (isomorphism, not coercion). Schools of ed are a near vacuum of serious intellectual activity.

Finally, schools of education have been completely rational from one point of view to make these tradeoffs. They will readily make an alliance with Mr. Duncan and the U.S. will be poorer in human capital for it. They will predictably smile, wink, flirt, powder, and nudge up their skirt or pant leg as courtesan's tend to do. They'll get that money one way or another.

Steven Loomis
Wheaton College

14. dnaversa - October 10, 2009 at 12:18 am

To #7, perhaps what is meant is that Education majors generally are not the brightest bunch. For one, look at average GRE scores by major and you will see Education and its myriad subcategories dominating the bottom. For Christ's sake, many of the scores are below 500...that is NOT appropriate for grad school and it certainly indicates some challenge, considering that Calculus is not even on the GRE. Here is the link to the ETS site: ftp://ftp.ets.org/pub/gre/994994.pdf

The link is a bit dated, but nothing of significance has changed. Just visit an education class and see for yourself. Bet you'll never be lost in the discussion! Or read a syllabus from a graduate-level education class without laughing. Perhaps then you'll appreciate the snipe at ed teachers and ed students. While I sincerely appreciate Steven Loomis's comments, in my professional opinion, nothing will change until the requirements become more rigorous, the "education" course content unties itself from the inane, and education faculty stop the touchy-feely, it-must-be-multi-cultural drivel, social promotion agenda.

15. wftate - October 10, 2009 at 12:18 am

@ commentor 4--ophe07, I am not in a school of education. However, do fully engage with education, health, and social welfare matters regularly. I do not defend failed programs or weak attempts at teacher education. My point is straightforward. There are many fine programs preparing teachers in the United States and elsewhere. Why not use the opportunity as Secretary of Education in the United States of America to point the way forward. Why play games where in one speech you commend Teach for America and then fail to recognize the outstanding discipline-based, clinically designed efforts that exist around the country. Point of fact, there are programs in education schools, colleges of natural sciencs, and liberal arts colleges that are exceptional in terms of the candidates and program design. Of course there are programs that struggle or miss the mark. They should improve or be shut down. No excuses.

16. duece - October 10, 2009 at 12:39 am

@14--If we are going to examine test scores then it is important to break them down by major in education--mathematics education, science education, social studies, English, PE, elementary education, etc--as well as by undergraduate institution type. Unfortunately, I could not open your document. However, I strongly urge every college and university to analyze this data carefully. In some schools for example, science education majors also earn a degree in biology, chemistry, or physics. Understanding relative performance is often eye opening for the Arts & Science faculty.

17. ornery_mike_v7 - October 10, 2009 at 01:05 am

Ahh ... the memories, spending hours in the principals office! First, it's difficult to take the comments of the former CEO (not superintendent) of the City of Chicago School District, nor that of a person who's one & only Instructional Educational was that of being a Basketball Coach.

In response to #4, as I have been attempting to be a good Professor of Teacher Education and Student Teacher/Intern Supervisor for ten years, only to see the programs (both public and private) cave to the whims of State Standards, Federal notions of equity and pandering to the wishes of the local school districts. At the State Institutions it has become the Graduate School equivalent of the Open Court Reading Program and Saxon Mathematics Program. Programs, Requirements, Content and Presentation have become assembly lines, spewing out entry level Journeyman, not Craftsman, which best serves to demonstrate the bigger issue of Education and being a Teacher, which has gone from being a Profession to an Occupational Trade, all mandated by State & Federal Agencies (along with many districts and in reality most Charter Organizations), so that we remove any semblance of Thinking (creative & critical) Creativity, Knowledge and/or Understanding. Simply follow your scripted texts, teach to the test and bring the score up. Twenty-six (or so) years latter, 1984 has become reality!
To #5, I nor many of my students "Came from the bottom of the barrel!" I will grant you that I'm a Blue-Collar Academic, managed to acquire scholarships to some of the finest institutions and can & will go toe to toe with any of your Ivy League Favorite. To date, I have Supervised nearly 50 of the "wonderously gifted" Teach for America Interns, however few have any concept of teaching and even fewer stay with the profession, after their "tour of duty" has been completed. They make look good on paper and yes it is honorable, but in the end it's as fleeting as Vista was. Yes, I have had others far worse, who tried very hard to become good teachers and return to their communities, to attempt change. But, the Educational Programs won't and would never think of providing additional support for their success. Instead, I believe it's and inside game. a means of pacification, as I take the occasionally poorly educated, and turn them into Teachers for the Students who will be the next under-class of our society. Their fault, no they have more heart than any TFA Intern. Mine, no, I try to give them every possible theory, technique, support and sit with them when they need to regroup and try again. So ...

To all the others who left comments, I applaud you, thank you, as you did it far better!

18. carrie_chapman_catt - October 10, 2009 at 01:41 am

Interesting someone mentioned NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) as a standard indicating that schools are doing things well. . . .

Guess who AREN'T NCATE-accredited?

-Harvard's Graduate School of Education
-Univ. of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education
-The Univ. of Virginia's Curry School of Education
-Northwestern Universty's School of Education and Social Policy

among other top-ranked education schools at nationally top-ranked universities. . . .

Just throwing that out there.

19. critic - October 10, 2009 at 08:27 am

Come on folks. The research is clear. The quality and skill of the teacher is the most powerful variable by a bunch when it comes to student achievement. The data say that too many students aren't doing all that well. That means that too many teachers aren't doing all that well. And THAT means too many professors and programs in the teacher training business aren't doing all that well. Let's own it, fix it and move on.

20. marvchron - October 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm

As usual, there is some truth and some error in the secretary's comments. In my view, he is correct in stating that too much time is spent on theory, in particular, the extensive work on the context of education over and above the content. Each community has to some extent, it's own context, and there are no other options than to change the context or work within the context. Since the former will take much more time to achieve, we must do the latter. We need to accept our current context and start worrying about how to communicate content within those parameters rather than bemoan our situation.
We would also do well to understand that in a time of diminished financial resources, cries for more finances will more often be answered in the negative than in the affirmative. At some point we may just have to do the best we can with what we have been given, rather than to complain that it is never enough.

21. duece - October 10, 2009 at 04:18 pm

@18 The top tier schools have no incentive to use NCATE. The students are generally well above average on any metric. It does not make sense to conform to their standards directly as well as the economics of paying to participate. Most state standards are aligned with NCATE, thus the top tier privates and public ivy schools deal with the state versions of NCATE. It is cheaper and you only have to deal with one regulator as opposed to two regulators. @19 Yes, it is correct that teacher quality explains 20-40% of the variance associated with achievement. So why do we allow teachers without any certification teach? In my city, for several years, as high as 50% of the middle school teachers did not have an undergraduate degree. They were largely temporary substitute teachers consistently coming and going. Certainly there is room for improvement in terms of academic programming. However, the quality and mobility factors associated with teaching are more complex than teacher education programs.

22. geoff_wilson - October 10, 2009 at 11:37 pm

It is no secret in my field (music) that an education degree is often the last chance for students who cannot succeed in performance or academics. So while there are some fine minds going into teaching in my discipline, on the whole we graduate too many students in education who are underskilled both technically and intellectually. The result has been that when technocrats like Duncan gut the liberal arts from K-12 schools, the teachers on the front lines are often unable to articulate the value of their courses to the education of students. In many cases, their programs cannot demonstrate their worth either, making them especially vulnerable.

We certainly need teachers who are both highly skilled and who can think rigorously beyond the confines of their own discipline. I imagine the situation is not so different in other disciplines also. It is ridiculous to think that these outcomes can be measured by standardized testing or the plethora of surveys that are charged with that task these days. So when Duncan calls for more "accountability" it's hard not to share #13's cynicism that the result of all of this will be greater conformity, even less rigor in thinking, and a systematic rebranding of the notion knowledge that strips it of any wisdom or creativity.

If Duncan really wants to create an "army of new teachers", with highly-specialized skills and an absolute submission to authority, then we will all be the poorer for it.

23. laoshi - October 11, 2009 at 05:22 am

My exposure to theory whilst studying for a masters in TESL was the best part of being in a school of education. Now, my practice is about praxis, not replication of traditional methodologies just because some blowhard like Arne Duncan tells me so.

If Duncan's dismal student outcomes in Chicago are a bellwether, we are in for a rough ride. No wonder students kill each other when he comes back home for a visit.

24. maja_mikkels - October 11, 2009 at 11:35 am

I have three children in school, and the biggest problems I see is that the pay is abysmal and that many school districts don't pay health insurance. Also, they often get laid off at the end of the school year and don't know if they will be rehired until late August.

Therefore, many good teachers drop out when they have family themselves because they dream of buying a small home and of being able to pay a doctor for their kids. These egotistic bastards.

But if they learned less theory in college, surely these issues would all solve themselves, and the best and brightest and most engaged would flock to the teaching profession!!!

25. msmith32 - October 11, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Wow, teacher ed students coming from the bottom of barrel? Really? Well I paid for my B.S. in Education with my valedictorian scholarships. Some of us smarty pants actually wanted to teach.

26. 11239961 - October 11, 2009 at 11:50 pm

It was once said by someone that cynicism is intellectual treason against those who haven't earned it, but sarcasm and sardonic humor is appropriate judgement for those who have. I plead guilty to the latter and not guilt to the former.

For my good colleague (@20), and to others with similarly warranted concerns, the central problem for schools of education is in fact a theoretical (epistemological) one. Too little time is spent on developing (or retaining, or modifying, or innovating) good theory, not least this is true for the reason that there is no practice that occurs without a theoretical antecedent, known or unknown. If that antecedent is askew is some important way, as it is now, then practice is likely to be insufficient to the nature of the good. Think of practice as an effect of something philosophically deeper. Practice in nearly any field almost always reveals certain prior theoretical commitments.

There is a way to solve their core problem.


27. yaqui60 - October 12, 2009 at 08:30 am

It is time to have a national dialogue about this issue. TOo often, the worst students at our University are those in education, and too often they cannot read or write with any precision. We are turning out students from high school who canot read and write. That said, as a country , we reward teachers very poorly, and they work often for "minimum wages" when you calculate the hours they spend. Until we reward and value the effort, we are in a poor position to demand quality. The best teachers are those who have expertise in a content area and are passionate about the subject.

28. cjpalazzolo - October 12, 2009 at 08:35 am

#14 - dnaversa, says it well. Very well indeed. I guess for some, it just hurts too much to look into the mirror. And yes, far too many schools that offer the BA in Ed require only a passing or C average in courses that accept, even expect, poor writing and analytical skills. GRE scores ARE the lowest among all graduate studies, and all too often, by AERA own admissions, dissertations are primarily case studies, focus groups, and seldom employ any type of quantitative analysis. When schools of Ed -at all levels - instill some true rigor into its programs the graduates might come away with a real education, which can, and should, be reflected in our schools. Our K-12 schools ARE a direct reflection of what we have produced in our colleges of education, it cannot be denied. You cannot teach what you don't know.
Can you imagine if scientists all sat around and talked about what their subjects perceived, felt, and thought instead of demanding scholarly measurement and analysis?

29. chazzbo - October 12, 2009 at 10:56 am

It is good to know that a Harvard educated sociologist without teaching experience can dispense such wisdom about the needs of education and educators. It seems to me that our only hope is that Mr. Duncan spends a night at the Holiday Inn Express before delivering his address on improving the quality of education in the United States.

30. velvis - October 12, 2009 at 11:13 am

I have found it reprehensibe that the man who is at the helm of American classrooms has never been a teacher and neither have any of his predicessors.

Having been a class room teacher for many years before deciding that to make a difference I need to be abe to help change policy not just class rules; the failure of education cannot and should not be placed solely on the narrow shoulders of the underpaid teachers but on the parents that don't help, the students that don't care, the principals who focus on scores instead of students and the policy makers that haven't been in a rural or urban low-ses classroom, let alone know how to deal with the kids in those rooms.

I agree that I was woefully underprepared when I left my undergrad womb and walked into my first classroom and that programs need desperately to be revamped - classes that focus on technique and not just semester after semester of developmental/ed psych theory, class managment, curriculum development, etc etc etc.

To those who keep making education about scores and measurement and assessment are missing the fact that we're not dealing with data sets but kids. We need to see them as people and not just as products.

31. deliajones - October 12, 2009 at 11:39 am

The preparation I needed to become an effective teacher came from rigorous training in my major and helpful and involved mentors during my first years of teaching. I tried to take additional courses at both UVA's "wonderful" Curry School and at W&M and was insulted by the low quality of courses. At UVA, one instructor divided the textbooks' pages by the number of students in the class, and had us each report on only our little section of the book--each class session consisted of a report from each student with no time for discussions! At W&M I was told I'd have to make a foam board for my presentation. When I explained that on the rare occasions I ever needed a foam board I had them made at Kinko's, the instructor explained that every educator needed to know how to make a foam board. Both of these courses, by the way, were PhD level, and taken during the early 2000's. A geration later, my son left the Curry School in similar disgust. The drones stayed--the bright left.

32. eelalien - October 12, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I have interviewed students entering the teacher programs at our college of education who are quite intelligent, and can well articulate what it means to provide a meaningful educational experience to their future charges. And I have seen the opposite, as well. But when the bottom line trumps quality screening in seeking increased enrollment at all costs, the end product will surely suffer the consequences of this business model. I have witnessed standards lowered just to get more warm bodies in seats, and unfortunately, we also still have faculty who believe that the only way to teach is the way they were taught 30-40 years ago. Unless the teaching profession, along with teacher preparation programs, are viewed realistically for the extremely important role they provide our society, we'll keep getting blowhards who scold about the decline of education while ignoring the root causes. We need to take the entire U.S. educational system and turn it upside down, shaking out everything in the box it currently resides, then reassemble the whole thing in a new, forward-thinking manner.

33. gpetty3 - October 12, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I only have knowledge (via my wife) of one particular Big Ten university. After already earning her M.A., she completed a range of additional courses required by the state for her high school teaching certification. She said that by far the worst-taught courses she took at that university were those offered by the School of Education, in particular the course on Pedagogy!

34. cholbert - October 12, 2009 at 06:00 pm

Perhaps Comment 1 would like to look at the Teach for America guidelines: a BA or BS degree in a needed subject area (average GPA of participants, 3.6), an in-depth 3-month training session, and two years of supervised "student teaching," for lack of a better term. This has far more subject area rigor than most schools of education require and certainly more time in a supervised teaching program. I have heard people say "I hate Math (or English or History) so I'm going to major in elementary education." What? Do they not realize that they will have to teach math or English or whatever EVERY day? I have also heard "No, I don't want to teach but I just need a degree and an ed degree is an easy one to get." I heard that only two weeks ago, actually. Content rigor, not theoretical rigor, is needed.

There is a money component, however. As the pay dropped (in comparison to other professional fields)and the prestige waned, fewer and fewer people at the top of the academic heap went into education. They choose other careers that were far more lucrative. How nice it would be to live in a country where teachers were as honored as doctors or lawyers are. You know, the "Ohhh, you're a doctor!" in that admiring tone. We don't get that here.

35. duece - October 13, 2009 at 12:27 am

@34 Comment 1 is not a critique of TFA per se. It appears to be a concern about the logic of the policy formulation and argument. To all who posted here, this dialogue suggests there is a deep passion about this topic. My hope is that more people will join in this important discussion.

36. pennstateomr - October 13, 2009 at 10:30 am

Am I reading right abotua need for critical pedagogy to replace that which instills the same old mirror images of society? We need ti shake things up iin curriculum building?
Good comments all around.

37. ophe07 - October 13, 2009 at 11:20 am

#19 - You hit the nail on the head!

38. njm2065 - October 13, 2009 at 11:41 am

I believe that there are four real issues:
1. Teachers do need clinicals. The highest level of learning is the ability to teach the material, and often that does not occur until after the degree is granted.
2. Stop using teachers to teach outside of their skills sets. No more coaches teaching history or math, or science. Let them coach and let someone trained to teach history, math or science. There are different levels of education, and different disciplines. Each requires a different skills set. I am a good college instructor in the sciences, but would be poor in teaching mathematics to elementary children. I don't have the perspective to see how to make mathematics into a fun or creative activity that engages a student. Luckily, one of my "bottom of the barrel" teachers did that for me. Further, if I were to teach in the visual arts, I would be abysmal. Yet I was a graduate fellow and valedictorian.
3. Let teachers teach the curriculum, not a state test. And why isn't there a minimal national curriculum. We all need to read and write. As a parent, I am appalled by the materials that my children bring home. They are incomplete, illogically organized, and fully focussed on a state standards test. Teachers are told that they may not supplement the course materials-- reprimands to follow. If the teachers were allowed to teach the topic, rather than the test, we might see a glimpse of their true merit.
4. Take back the classroom from legislators who have no experience in education, and return it to the hands of the people who actually are trained to educate. The riciculous amount of interference has created a situation in which principals and administrators are afraid to back up a teacher, or a standard. It is not politically expedient to do the right thing for the students. Worse yet, to stand up to an abusive parent who is also ill-qualified to assess appropriate classroom standards or behaviors.

39. jaysanderson - October 13, 2009 at 01:36 pm

I am always interested in ideas from those who have been successful. There are many school systems around the country that are quite successful and likely have much to share. Mr. Duncan's was not and is not. Why him?

Sorry, spaced it there for a second--Chicago, it's all about the president's friends. How very predictable and disappointing.

40. readerman - October 14, 2009 at 11:56 pm

Man this is like reading the gossip column in the local paper! Sure there are many unprepared and undereducated college students and they aren't just in education classes. Sorry to say, most of your classmates back in the good ole days weren't that bright either no matter what discipline you were in. Still even the best and brightest who go into education (despite the low pay and lack of respect) find that both the content and the way they are pushed to teach by the high stakes tests and state depts of education often do not really allow them use critical thinking and inquiry in their classrooms. Sorry but Obama really blew it when he didn't choose Linda Darling Hammond. This is just more of the same old same old.

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