In “New Guidelines for Teacher Training: A needed attempt to reform the accreditation of teacher education schools lacks substance” (Clarion Call , September 01, 2009), Sandra Stotsky writes:
On June 23, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the organization that accredits most of the nation’s education schools, announced a revision of its accrediting guidelines. It’s the first major revision in ten years. … The problem with NCATE’s white paper is what it doesn’t say. One reads the paper in vain for any mention of increasing academic coursework requirements for K-8 teacher candidates. As the National Mathematics Advisory Panel found, the common characteristic of effective teachers is a deep knowledge of the subject they teach. But nothing in NCATE’s new guidelines ensures that prospective teachers, especially for elementary and middle school, will have the academic background necessary to teach the subjects they will be expected to. An even more serious problem we face is raising the academic caliber of those who want to become teachers. Finland, a nation with very high student achievement levels, draws its teachers from the top 10 percent of its college graduates, and its teacher training programs admit only 15% of those who apply. In contrast, America draws its elementary teachers mostly from the bottom 30 percent of high school graduates who go to college. …Even though the new guidelines aim at increased knowledge about “what works to improve student learning,” there’s nothing in the new NCATE standards about using what is already known about what works. That’s especially true in beginning reading instruction. The research evidence is clear that techniques such as phonics and direct instruction are effective, but they don’t tend to be taught in education schools. NCATE implies that attainment of a body of knowledge about what works lies somewhere in the distant future, with its development contingent upon a heavy and regular stream of funding of education school faculty in research-oriented universities. But optimism about breakthroughs from educational research is misplaced. Educational researchers have an extremely poor track record of producing quality work that can improve teaching practice. For example, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel’s 2008 report found little value in the vast majority of studies it examined. … The absence of subject matter experts on review teams keeps constructivist, anti-content theories about teaching dominant in our education schools and makes it easier for NCATE to avoid criticizing academically weak teacher preparation programs. Copyright © 2009 The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy“Constructivist.” Another signal that John Dewey is at work. We see this, and I say this, time and time and time again… The failure of mainstream modern education is ultimately philosophical. Only an educational philosophy of reason — following the (scientific, logical, and epistemological) ideas and traditions of Thales, Archimedes, Sir Francis Bacon, Gilbert, Galileo, William Harvey, Newton, John Stuart Mill (re Mill’s Methods), Montessori, Aristotle and Rand — will give rise to a proper, successful system of education.