The Council for Basic Education, in a survey, asked teachers
how to improve the quality of teacher education programs. The
results indicate that most college and university programs
concentrate on the theory of teaching and not on the practice of
teaching. As a result, many teachers enter classrooms ill
equipped to teach effectively.
For some teachers being unprepared from day one results in
a career which immediately heads downhill. The tragedy is that
sometimes the teachers with the greatest potential leave,
because they have other options, while those with less potential
stay and muddle through.
The teachers surveyed felt that they were not trained in
the subject they were to teach. Further, they were not taught
any strategies on how to teach the content they did know. One
teacher noted that : “Universities are without a clue as how to
relate content with cognitive strategies.” Another said: “Never
in my methods courses did we talk about how to teach someone to
read.” They also were not given any training in classroom
management and as one teacher put it, it was “Baptism by Fire.”
As a result, teachers are left floundering, failing and not
enjoying their chosen careers.
The teachers in this survey advocated the following changes
to teacher preparation : First, require all teachers to know the
content of the subjects they teach. Second, teach pedagogy in
the context of the academic content. Third, offer prospective
teachers many and varied school-based experiences.
Even if they survive and make it to the point where they
feel competent as teachers, the credential system can work
against them. If they are licensed to teach elementary school,
they can, theoretically, teach any grade from K to 8. A person
who is successful teaching eighth grade could be moved to
first grade if the need arises, even though she may not be
prepared, not enjoy or want to teach at that level. Teachers
are not interchangeable either temperamentally or technically.
Teacher education and certification programs need to change.
Since most entrenched systems resist change, there will have to
be loud protests before there is any action. Protest works. The
action taken by the Ford Motor Company and other corporations
The Company informed the universities that they would no
longer accept recruits from them unless they produced graduates
who were an asset to the company from day one.
This change in attitude came about because Ford downsized
middle management which used to train new recruits. The Company
no longer wants to do the training. Ford says it can not
afford to hire a graduate and then take two years to train him.
That’s what the university was supposed to do .
One of the results of this mandate is the evolution of
corporate internships. At the University of Minnesota, business
undergraduates connect with a corporate mentor in their freshman
year. At Lehigh, engineering students are working with
Johnson and Johnson to design a new hypodermic needle.
As a result, the university is no longer an island but is
forming connections to learn what skills its graduates need
to succeed. In addition, internships allow companies to preview
candidates before hiring them, and students learn about
different careers before pursuing one.
Ford says it is not trying to run the university, but it is
trying to get out of the business of having to rework the
graduates it gets. The same sentence should be said loud and
clear by school systems and parents.
The colleges and universities which train our teachers
should be held to the following requirements: They should be
responsible for their graduates knowing the subjects they are
to teach. They should have affiliations with school systems.
They should provide internship programs with competent school
personnel as early as the freshman year. They should lose
their accreditation if their graduates do not prove to be
qualified to teach.
If corporate America can make demands from educational
institutions in order to produce better products, why can’t
school systems make similar demands in order to produce
better qualified teachers and ultimately better students?