Government

Duncan Urges 'Revolutionary Change' in Nation's Teacher-Training Programs

October 21, 2009

The nation's colleges of education are doing a "mediocre job" of preparing teachers for "the realities of the 21st-century classroom" and need "revolutionary change—not evolutionary tinkering," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will say in a speech on Thursday at Columbia University's Teachers College.

In a prepared text of his speech, the secretary accuses colleges of using their schools of education as "cash cows" and "profit centers" to finance "prestigious but underenrolled graduate departments like physics—while doing little to invest in rigorous educational research and well-run clinical testing." He calls on colleges to make student outcomes "the overarching mission that propels all their efforts."

He also criticizes states and the federal government for approving weak teacher-training programs and licensing examinations for teachers, and for failing to provide enough support for programs that provide mentors for teachers.

Good teacher-training programs, according to the secretary, are "coherent, up-to-date," and "research-based." They should also provide students with subject mastery, prepare them to teach "diverse pupils in high-needs settings," and use data "to inform instruction."

More than half the nation's teachers graduate from a school of education. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 220,000 students graduate from a teachers college every year.

The secretary's remarks echo criticism leveled by a former president of Teachers College, Arthur Levine, in a series of reports produced by the Education Schools Project.

Mr. Duncan also emphasized improving teacher-training programs in comments he made two weeks ago at the University of Virginia. In that speech, he praised the teaching profession but criticized the nation's colleges of education, calling them the "neglected stepchild" of higher education.