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Alternative Teacher Certification and The New Professionalism: The Pre-service Preparation of Mathematics Teachers in the New York City Teaching Fellows Program

by Andrew Brantlinger & Beverly Smith - 2013

Background/Context: For more than a decade, large alternative teacher certification programs (ATCP) such as the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF) have provided qualified applicants with fast-track or “early entry” routes to paid teaching. While early-entry ATCPs enjoy powerful support in the public and private sectors, critics (e.g., Zeichner, 2010) claim that early-entry ATCPs are aligned with a “new professionalism” which views teaching as a technical undertaking and teachers as easily replaceable implementers of others’ prescriptive ideas. Yet little is known about the knowledge, skills, and dispositions these programs seek to develop in teachers during pre-service preparation.

Purpose/Focus of Study: This study seeks to understand the nature of teacher preparation in early-entry ATCPs and how this reflects both the trends associated with the new professionalism and broader traditions of teacher education. The paper focuses on preparation of pre-service mathematics teachers who began the NYCTF program in the summer of 2007.

Research Design: Results for this paper are based on a mixed-methods analysis of curriculum and survey data. Curriculum data included course materials, journal entries and daily audio reflections, and exit interviews for nine mathematics teacher candidates who began NYCTF in the summer of 2007. The two authors coded this qualitative data with a high degree of inter-rater reliability. Survey data was collected from 90% of the approximately 300 mathematics candidates who began NYCTF in the summer of 2007. The analysis focused on responses to Likert-scale survey items that inquired about the focus of pre-service coursework. The Mann Whitney test was used to gauge the statistical significance of curricular differences reported by mathematics candidates in different sections of the NYCTF program.

Findings/Results: We find that only some of the major components of NYCTF summer preparation were well aligned with the expectations of the new professionalism. In particular, the curriculum delivered by NYCTF staff and staff at one of the four university coursework providers seemed to meet these expectations. Whereas, to varying degrees, the curriculum delivered by staff at the three other university partners did not. We also find that pre-service preparation was subject-general and featured little in the way of mathematics-specific teaching methods.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The results simultaneously support, extend, nuance, and challenge the hypothesis that such early-entry ATCPs such as NYCTF prepare program participants to meet the expectations of the new professionalism. The conclusion includes discussions of both the promise of early-entry ATCPs and how schools of education might respond to the rise of early-entry ATCPs and the trend of the new professionalism.

In response to generalized concerns about the quality of U.S. education, the related issues of teacher quality, recruitment, and preparation have received increased national attention (Duncan, 2009; National Research Council, 2010; Paige, 2003; Thomas & Wingert, 2010; U.S. Department of Education, 2009, 2010; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007). President Obama stated: Our goal must be to have a great teacher in every classroom. . . . To ensure the success of our children, we must do better to recruit, develop, support, retain, and reward outstanding teachers in Americas classrooms (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, p. 1). Alternative teacher certification programs (ATCPs), particularly those that provide a streamlined or early-entry route to paid teaching, have surfaced as a popular remedy to alleviate anxieties about inadequate teachers and purportedly to meet the need for highly-qualified teachers in schools with high rates of student failure on high-stakes testing.

ATCPs, particularly early-entry programs that provide a fast-track to paid teaching, have powerful allies in policymaking and philanthropic circles who appreciate the innovation and consumer choice such programs introduce into the teacher preparation market (e.g., Gatlin, 2008; Paige, 2003; Rotherham, 2008; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007; Will, 2011). They castigate traditional teacher education programs for maintaining an unsatisfactory status quo in public education. Current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan complained that schools of education generally do a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom and lauded early-entry ATCPs and nationally prominent organizations who recruit for them for doing things differently (Duncan, 2009). He proclaimed, I am all in favor of expanding high-quality alternative certificate routes, like [those that involve] the New Teacher Project [and] Teach for America. He also lamented that, currently, such programs only prepare a small number of the new teachers needed by U.S. schools.

ATCPs are surmised to recruit the best and the brightest professional career changers and recent college graduates who hold college degrees in something other than education (Kopp, 2001; Kramer, 2010; Levy, 2000; Will, 2011). Through reduced barriers to entry and effective marketing, ATCPs ostensibly are able to attract large numbers of qualified applicants and hence can be highly selective in admissions (Finn & Petrilli, 2007; Gatlin, 2008; Paige, 2003; Rotherham, 2008; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007). Proponents contend that alternative route teachers have greater subject matter expertise, subject-relevant work experience, linguistic competence, and prior academic achievement than both traditionally prepared teachers and emergency certified teachers and therefore improve the quality of the teacher workforce. While they admit that ATCP teachers might need some initial support, they also believe that talented individuals can learn on the job (Finn & Petrilli, 2007; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007). They report that, to be effective, the best recruits do not need traditional teacher education. They particularly appreciate those ATCPs that reduce or eliminate overly theoretical education coursework on the grounds that this coursework does harm by pushing endless fads (e.g., whole language reading, values clarification, new math) and counterproductive attitudes (e.g., demography is destiny when it comes to education achievement) (Finn & Petrilli, 2007, pp. 7-8). Proponents also note that alternative route teachers are more willing than traditionally prepared teachers to begin teaching in high-needs urban schools while failing to acknowledge that streamlined entry into paid teaching and other incentives, rather than altruism, facilitate this situation. Alternative route teachers also are presumed to work tirelessly using proven techniques to raise student achievement, close the achievement gap, and eliminate educational inequality in high-needs urban schools (Kopp, 2001; Kramer, 2010; Levy, 2000).

In contrast to the accolades of ATCP proponents, critics argue that early-entry programs de-professionalize teaching by cutting back on necessary pre-service preparation, placing underprepared teachers in classrooms, and allowing inexperienced college graduates to experiment with teaching in schools that serve impoverished students of color (Darling-Hammond, 1994; Veltri, 2010). They point to peer-reviewed comparison studies which, as a whole, fail to support the supposition that alternative route teachers are more effective at raising student achievement than traditional route teachers working in comparable school contexts (e.g., Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2006; Darling-Hammond, Holtzman, Gatlin, & Heilig, 2005). Critics cite research indicating that alternate route teachers feel less well prepared for their initial year of teaching and have much higher rates of attrition than traditional route teachers in comparable urban schools (e.g., Darling-Hammond, Chung, & Frelow, 2002). They also note that prominent early-entry ATCPs, particularly Teach for America (TFA), promote, or fail to counter, deficit views of impoverished people of color (Brantlinger, Cooley, & Brantlinger, 2010; Darling-Hammond, 1994; Popkewitz, 1998; Veltri, 2008). Based on this, critics argue that such programs maintain or exacerbate problems and inequalities in schools that serve the urban poor.

Echoing Darling-Hammond (1994), Zeichner (2010) contends that the goal of early-entry ATCPs is to prepare good enough teachers to teach children of the urban poor by obediently following scripted curriculum and instructional practices that are allegedly supported by research (Zeichner, 2010, p. 1546). As do others (e.g., Apple, 2001; Beyer, 2007; Tamir, 2008), Zeichner (2010) links early-entry ATCPs, or learn while you earn models, to neoliberal, free market efforts designed to privatize public education and to disempower public sector workers. He contends that a neoliberal goal is to limit the professional authority of teachers through such initiatives as high stakes accountability, mandated instructional programs, and attacks on teachers unions (see also, Apple, 2001; Lipman, 2004). Zeichner (2010) claims that such efforts are geared towards a new professionalism, (p. 1546) which views teaching as a technical undertaking and teachers as easily replaceable implementers of others prescriptive ideas. He elaborates:

What is important to note about the alternatives being encouraged though is that they are often closely linked with a technicist view of the role of teachers and with efforts to erode teachers autonomy and collegial authority. A number of scholars have carefully documented the transformation of the occupation of teaching in many parts of the world to what has sometimes been called the new professionalism that accepts the view that decisions about what and how to teach and assess are largely to be made beyond the classroom rather than by teachers themselves (e.g., Furlong, 2005; Robertson, 2000; and Smyth, Dow, Hattam, Reid, & Shacklock, 2000; Tatto, 2007a). The same ideas that have resulted in the new professionalism for teaching have now entered the world of teacher education to try and ensure that teachers are prepared to assume their limited roles as educational clerks who are not to exercise their judgment in the classroom. (pp. 1545-1546)

Furlong (2005) concurs that, as with neoliberal reforms designed to curtail the power of public sector workers, the new professionalism accept[s] that decisions about what to teach and how to teach and how to assess children are made at school and national level rather than by individual teachers themselves (p. 120). Teacher education programs face pressure to embrace the new professionalism. As the expansion and influence of non-profit and private providers of new models of teacher preparation suggests (Duncan, 2009; Foderaro, 2010; Otterman, 2011), programs that fail to get in line with innovative approaches to teacher education stand to lose funding, clientele, and what remains of their political support (Labaree, 2010; Tamir, 2008).


In this article, we report the results of research on the preparation of pre-service mathematics teachers in the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF) program and how the varied program components reflect the trends of the new professionalism. Given the potential impact on the future of teacher education, and ultimately the education of U.S. students, this article will consider the implications of early-entry ATCPs and the teachers they prepare to teach in the highest-needs schools as conduits for the permeation of the new professionalism. As Zeichner (2010) notes, the hypothesized relationship between the new professionalism and early-entry ATCPs has its basis in critical analyses of policy and economic trends rather than in empirical analyses of such programs. Despite the exponential growth in the number and influence of early-entry ATCPs over the past three decades (Feistrizer, 2010; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007), the particulars of preparation in these programs remain largely unexamined, with the possible exception of preparation in TFA (Foote, 2008; Popkewitz, 1998; Veltri, 2008, 2010). Johnson and Birkeland (2008) note, [w]e know nothing about what teacher candidates actually learn in [alternative] routes, which seriously limits our understanding of the merits and limitations of such programs (p. 106). The authors of the 2010 National Research Council report, Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy, also cite the lack of systematic and detailed knowledge about teacher preparation programs that prepare mathematics and other subject matter teachers. In a remark that applies to both alternative and traditional teacher education programs, they recommend that both quantitative and qualitative data about the programs of study in mathematics offered and required at teacher preparation institutions are needed, as is research to improve understanding of what sorts of preparation approaches are most effective at developing effective teachers (p. 176). As this indicates, mathematics teachers and teacher education programs that prepare them have come under special scrutiny. This is precisely because mathematics is one of the most difficult subjects to staff as well as a subject perceived to be most directly related to international economic competitiveness (Hanushek, 2011).

We take up the above charge by examining the pre-service preparation of mathematics teacher candidates in NYCTF. This research is merited for several reasons: First, it is important to understand the extent to which the preparation of mathematics teacher candidates in this prominent early-entry ATCP conforms to the expectations of the new professionalism. Second, and related, as the first and largest such program, NYCTF has served as a model for dozens of Teaching Fellows programs that have sprung up in school districts across the U.S. over the past decade (TNTP, 2011). These programs prepare large numbers of new teachers for the hardest-to-staff urban schools in the United States. Third, as mentioned, elites in policymaking and philanthropic circles cite NYCTF and The New Teacher Project (TNTP), the national organization that recruits and selects candidates for Teaching Fellows programs, as exemplars of innovative organizations that produce remarkable results by addressing the human capital challenge, recruiting and preparing top-flight talent, and raising teacher quality (Gatlin, 2008, pp. 14-16; Paige, 2003, pp. 28-29; Rotherham, 2008, pp. 39-41, 72; The Teaching Commission, 2004, pp. 44, 50; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007, pp. 8-11). Finally, as the National Research Councils 2010 report indicates, there is a need for more research on the content and organization of teacher preparation in early-entry ATCPs (see also, Humphrey, Wechsler, & Hough, 2008).


This section provides background information on early-entry ATCPs programs, inclusive of NYCTF, currently preparing large numbers of teachers for high needs urban schools. In the period from 1960-1990 most teachers were prepared in and certified through traditional undergraduate teacher education programs based at college or university schools of education (Zeichner & Hutchinson, 2008). Other teachers, who did not have an education degree, completed a one to two year post-baccalaureate program also operated by a school of education. In 1985, the virtual monopoly on teacher preparation held by schools of education began to be broken with the introduction of a state managed ATCP in New Jersey (Tamir, 2008). This program allowed college graduates who did not major in education to quickly and easily become paid teachers of record. It was argued that this approach reduced costs to prospective teachers in terms of preparation time required and out-of-pocket expenses involved in university-based education. In fact, for decades, many hard to staff schools in New York City and elsewhere had informally used an alternative certification model by issuing emergency licenses to uncertified teachers who were then required to meet standard certification requirements in a limited (e.g., two-year) period of time. Goodnough (2004) reports that the hundred or so lowest-performing New York City schools had far more uncertified teachers than their better-performing counterparts: A whopping 80 percent of the teachers hired in failing schools during the 1990s lacked certification, and were working with emergency credentials (p. 29). Currently, most U.S. states have followed New Jerseys lead in introducing formal alternative routes to certification. Approximately 500,000 teachers have been prepared and certified through alternative routes to date (Feistritzer, 2010). The creation of alternative routes ostensibly has been done to address the shortages of certified teachers in hard-to-staff subject areas and high-needs schools (Kopp, 2001; Kramer, 2010; Levy, 2000; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007). However, as Tamir (2008) shows, alternative certification policies were as much the result of free market ideology and right wing politics as they were the result of the economic forces of supply and demand.

Whereas traditionally university schools of education have operated teacher education programs, currently states, school districts, and non-profit organizations are able to operate ATCPs (Foderaro, 2010; Otterman, 2011). Yet, despite that distinction, more than half of the 600-plus ATCPs in the United States either are run by schools of education or include universities as providers of coursework and supervision of clinical fieldwork (Feistritzer, 2010; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007; Zeichner & Hutchinson, 2008).

Many ATCPs are labeled early-entry because the length of time from enrollment to certification is shorter than typical college and university programs (Zeichner & Hutchinson, 2008, p. 26). The pre-service component or initial preparation in early-entry programs often includes three to nine credit hours of education coursework, or the equivalent in training, and less than 100 hours of supervised clinical fieldwork (Humphrey & Wechsler, 2008; Johnson & Birkeland, 2008). Alternative certification policy enables teachers to work provisionally for a limited period, typically two years, as full-time, paid teachers of record upon the successful completion of the pre-service component of an ATCP and after passing of state licensure exams. To obtain standard or full teacher certification, alternatively certified teachers generally take in-service coursework in the evenings and on the weekends in their first year or two. Many ATCP participants are promised mentoring and other forms of induction support in their first year of teaching.

Traditional teacher preparation programs feature a longer and more comprehensive pre-service experience than early-entry ATCPs and they rarely include an induction component in the in-service phase. In New York State, for instance, schools of education interpret traditional certification regulations as requiring an average of 40 coursework credits and [inclusive of] field experience hours, as well as independent student teaching (National Research Council, 2010, p. 36). National norms indicate that traditional teacher education programs require supervised student teaching that lasts a four-month semester (Darling-Hammond, Hammerness, Grossman, Rust, & Shulman, 2005; Evertson, 1990). Both traditional and alternative programs must follow the subject-related guidelines of state certification agencies, however, the latter sometimes receive permission to modify or waive certain requirements (e.g., mathematics coursework).


This section provides information about NYCTF and the policies that shaped initial preparation of mathematics teachers in this program at the time of this study was conducted in the summer of 2007. Since its inception in 2000, the NYCTF program has involved a partnership between the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), TNTP, and a number of colleges and universities in the New York City metro area that contract with the program to provide preparatory education and content coursework (Goodnough, 2004). In the period from 2002-2008, NYCTF was the largest early-entry ATCP in the country preparing between 2000 and 4000 teachers annually, including some 300 to 400 mathematics teachers (NYCTF, 2011; TNTP, 2011). Roughly a quarter of all mathematics teachers currently teaching in New York City public schools have been prepared by NYCTF.

In the summer of 2007, NYCTF rendered contracts with four New York City universities for the preparation of its mathematics teacher candidates, also called prospective teachers or teachers-in-training. We refer to these university partners as UnivA, UnivB, UnivC, and UnivD. These universities are located in three of the four major boroughs of NYC. UnivA and UnivC are private universities and UnivB and UnivD are public universities. The public universities had provided masters certification coursework for NYCTF mathematics candidates since 2001 and the private universities were added a few years later.

Three policy documents delimited the scope and sequence of pre-service preparation in NYCTF at the time of our study, namely, The New York State Education Departments (NYSED) Registration of Curricula in Teacher Education (2000), The New York City Department of Educations (NYCDOE) Request for Proposal (RFP) #R0018 Masters and Certification Services to Alternative Route Teachers (2006), and the NYCTF program calendar from the summer of 2006.

The 2000 NYSED policy created a pathway titled Transitional B Certification that allowed prospective teachers who already possessed an undergraduate college degree with a non-education major to be counted as certified after completing the 200-clock-hour pre-service component of an approved ATCP and passing state required teacher examinations. It mandated a minimum of 200 clock-hours of initial preparation, inclusive of 40 or more clock-hours of clinical fieldwork, for prospective teachers in ATCPs operating in New York State. This transitional pathway to teaching allowed prospective teachers to complete the requirements for full state certification while they worked provisionally as fulltime teachers of record, i.e., paid teachers solely responsible for their own classrooms. It stipulated that pre-service coursework in ATCPs address a number of areas including an understanding of historical, social, and legal foundations of education including special education and multicultural education, child or adolescent development, instructional planning and effective teaching strategies, and school organization and classroom management.

Early-entry ATCPs operating in New York City also were subject to the 2006 New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) regulations which emphasized that initial coursework in early-entry ATCPs concentrate on the development of the knowledge and skills that are specifically relevant to alternate route teachers who are working full-time in the New York City public school system (p. 4). NYCDOE regulations identified five core principles that the preparation of alternative route teachers should embody, namely: student achievement focus, relevance, utility, coherence, and commitment to excellence (p. 6). It stated,

Training should address basic skills in instructional design and delivery and classroom management. Teachers should be equipped to assess the level of their students learning and to employ basic strategies for creating instructional plans for student needs. The content of training should be relevant and specific to New York City schools by utilizing instructional materials and strategies typically used in the schools. While theory and foundations may be introduced in the pre-service [component], this should only be done in a manner directly linked to practical preparation. The university program should complement the summer field experience, content workshops, and Student Achievement Framework sessions (p. 6)

The NYCDOE document went further than the NYSED document in prioritizing practical preparation and basic skills for classroom management and instruction. In contrast to the NYSED policy, the NYCDOE policy failed to sanction the coverage of social and historical foundations, adolescent development, multicultural education, and the rights and responsibilities of teachers.

An NYCTF pre-service program calendar, distributed to partner universities in 2006, filled in gaps left by the NYSED and NYCDOE documents and provided further structure for program implementation. It distributed the required 200 hours of pre-employment summer preparation of NYCTF into four components: (a) 34 hours of Student Achievement Framework (SAF) Advisory; (b) 26 hours of Friday Content Workshops or Seminars including a 6-hour program orientation; (c) 60 hours of clinical practice; and (d) 80 hours of university coursework. NYCTF and TNTP directed the first three components and faculty at each of the four partner university sites controlled the last component. These components, described in more detail later, were designed to serve unique but complementary purposes.

Representatives from each of the colleges within the public system met during the fall of 2006 to ensure that schools of education within the public university system would be prepared to submit proposals that aligned with the 2006 NYCDOE RFP expectations. Only university proposals that demonstrated how their coursework would meet these expectations were given contracts to prepare NYCTFs prospective mathematics teachers. NYCTF officials met with university staff on several occasions to ensure greater emphasis of practical approaches to the basic skills of teaching. Course instructors also were encouraged to collaborate on course curricula & to better dovetail the different components of NYCTFs pre-service preparation (Dodd, 2007). In the discussion of results, we consider the initial teacher preparation in NYCTF in light of these policy expectations.


The research summarized in this report was conducted by researchers associated with MetroMath at City University of New York system. MetroMath was a Center for Learning and Teaching funded by the National Science Foundation between 2004 and 2009.1 The two authors were among a dozen mathematics educators who worked on various parts of the project. The entire MetroMath project consisted of a large-scale qualitative study that included bi-monthly observations of eight case study mathematics fellows over a two-year period, interviews with these and 40 other mathematics Fellows, and surveys of more than 600 pre-service and in-service mathematics Teaching Fellows combined.


This particular report includes the results specific to the pre-service preparation of prospective mathematics Teaching Fellows who began the NYCTF program in the summer of 2007 and started paid teaching that fall. Of the approximately 300 prospective mathematics teachers who began NYCTF in the summer of 2007, 268 filled out demographic data on our pre-service survey. While the population was diverse (Table A), it did not come close to matching the predominantly Black and Latino demographic of the New York City school system. The typical NYCTF mathematics teacher candidate was also young; more than a third (37%) reported being between the ages of 21-23 and another three in ten (31%) between the ages of 24-27.

Table A. Ethnicity and Gender of NYCTF Mathematics Candidates.


Notes. M = Male, F = Female. Other includes candidates who did not report an ethnic background or reported being biracial.

The typical mathematics candidate was an outsider to NYC; fewer than one in three (31.7%) were born in the NYC-metro region and only about the same number (30.3%) attended high school in the city. Eighty-five of the 111 who graduated from a high school in New York City or another urban environment reported that this school was either a selective public or private school. Prospective mathematics teachers in NYCTF generally had prestigious undergraduate credentials (Table B). About 4 in 10 reported having attended an Ivy League school or a school classified as a Hidden Ivy (e.g., University of Chicago) or a Public Ivy (e.g., University of Michigan) (Greene & Greene, 2000, 2001). Less than 1 in 6 reported having majored in mathematics or physics as undergraduates (Table C). Other remaining mathematics candidates were unable to meet the 30 credit hours of college level coursework in mathematics and cognate areas (e.g., engineering, economics) to be awarded the states alternative certification license. However, the NYCTF program and the participating universities interpreted the NYSED regulations as allowing universities to recommend teacher candidates for alternative (i.e., Transitional B) certification if they completed the summer program and passed two New York State Teacher Examinations, the Liberal Arts and Science Test and the Content Specialty Test for mathematics. State officials accepted this interpretation. We note here that, on our surveys, approximately one-third of the NYCTF mathematics candidates reported that they would have preferred to teach something other than mathematics. However, there was such a need for mathematics teachers that NYCTF and TNTP staff strongly encouraged applicants who had passed one of the A.P. Calculus exams in high school and had more than one or two mathematics or statistics courses in college to become mathematics teacher candidates.

Table B. Undergraduate Institutions of NYCTF Mathematics Candidates

Table C. Undergraduate Majors of NYCTF Mathematics Candidates



Prospective mathematics teachers who enrolled in NYCTF in 2007 were assigned to one of the four university partners. They had little choice about this, although local candidates were generally assigned to the institution closest to their residence. Proximity placement was one reason participant assignment to university partners was non-random. A second reason was due to the fact that different universities offered different certifications: UnivD only granted initial certification for grades 5-9, UnivA only provided grades 7-12 (secondary) certification, whereas UnivB and UnivC offered both. As a result of this, and because more female candidates (44%) than male candidates (30%) pursued 5-9 certification, UnivD received a higher proportion of females than the other universities (67% compared to 54%).


This section outlines the theoretical framework employed in the analysis of data and presentation of results. Based on historical analyses, Liston and Zeichner (1991) and Zeichner (1993) propose that four traditions have undergirded teacher education in the United States. The academic tradition holds that subject matter expertise developed through completing a classical liberal arts curriculum is largely sufficient to prepare effective teachers. While not denying that aspiring teachers benefit from clinical fieldwork and learning some teaching fundamentals, this perspective sees most of traditional teacher education as a distraction from teachers developing the solid subject matter backgrounds necessary for effective teaching. The social efficiency tradition, with roots in Fredrick Taylors scientific management approach to increasing industrial efficiencies, is steeped in the belief that scientific or technical study of teaching and learning provides the most sound teacher preparation. From a social efficiency perspective, pre-service teachers can learn specific skills (e.g., behavior management, facilitation of student thinking) and effective dispositions (e.g., dont smile until Christmas) in formal settings before they enter actual classrooms (e.g., through micro-teaching, role-playing). This tradition would help teachers learn a basic repertoire of proven skills and techniques and master organizational and managerial routines but does not require teachers to actually understand the theory and research that support them.

The developmental tradition is rooted in child-study and child-centered education. It posits that teachers can facilitate students natural trajectory for learning by understanding their developmental stages and providing them with environments that foster natural learning opportunities. A principal goal is to have teachers reflect on the cognitive, emotional, moral, and physical development of their students. Teacher educators who embrace the developmental tradition generally believe that novice teachers also have a natural trajectory for learning and should be educated in that same type of environment. The approach is closely linked with progressive approaches as articulated by Montessori and Dewey and, more recently, constructivist approaches as articulated by Bruner and others (e.g., Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999). Teacher preparation that places an emphasis on psychological and developmental theories, such as those put forth by such scholars as Piaget, Vygotsky, and Gardner, fit this tradition.

The social reconstructionist tradition calls on teachers to be social activists committed to working towards social and economic justice. Teachers are prepared to think critically about society and its major institutions so they can teach students to do the same. The social reconstruction perspective challenges teachers to change the status quo social order of schooling rather than become complicit in it and its subsequent reproduction in school life. It draws on Counts (1932), Freire (1971), and other critical educators (e.g., Ladson-Billings, 1999) who believe that piecemeal, liberal reforms are insufficient to achieve reasonable levels of social and economic equality. Developmental and social reconstructionist approaches typically include a multicultural education focus so teaching practices correspond to the race, ethnicity, class, and cultures of students (Zeichner, 1993).

Research suggests that teacher education programs are comprised of mixtures of the four traditions yet tend to emphasize one or two (Zeichner, 1993). The literature suggests that the social efficiency and academic traditions would receive increased consideration, particularly in the education of alternative route teachers, as they appear consistent with the current trend of the new professionalism; the former because of its ostensibly scientific, value-free, and technical approach, and the latter because of its emphasis on teachers subject-matter knowledge and dismissal of the ostensibly theoretical aspects of traditional teacher preparation. Moreover, advocates of the new professionalism reject the developmental tradition on the grounds that it is too theoretical and hence not practical and the social reconstructionist tradition on the grounds that it is too politically radical (see Finn & Petrilli, 2007; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007).


This article addresses two research questions:


What was the nature of 2007 NYCTF pre-service preparation for prospective mathematics teachers?


How closely did this preparation align with the four traditions of teacher education (e.g., social efficiency) and the expectations of the new professionalism?

Analyses of the following two sets of data allowed us to address these research questions:

Curriculum Data

MetroMath recruited nine prospective mathematics teachers in the summer-2007 NYCTF cohort to collect what is referred to here as curriculum data. There were two curriculum collectors from each of the four NYCTF partner universities, and a third was added at UnivB because it prepared a significantly larger number of mathematics candidates. MetroMath paid each curriculum collector $650 for their involvement. Curriculum collectors were selected by university partner administrators in consultation with members of the MetroMath research team. As we understood that large numbers of candidates were recent college graduates, we asked that one of these collectors be 23 or younger. We also asked that they represent the diversity of the cohort with respect to gender and race or ethnicity. Of the nine candidates who agreed to be curriculum collectors, seven were female, four identified themselves as African American, one identified as Latina, one as Asian-American and the remainder as European American. Their ages ranged from 22 to 37. Because we asked that curriculum collectors be diverse, the demographics of our curriculum collectors did not match that of the general cohort. However, the majority of the descriptions of university activities that are the focus of this report did not seem to be affected by this; candidates at the same universities generally described their preparation in similar terms. While not addressed here, African American candidates did evaluate their preparation somewhat differently than other candidates.

The curriculum data included the use of (a) curriculum collectors written journals; (b) transcriptions of their digitally recorded audio reflections; (c) interviews conducted at the end of the 2007 pre-service program; and (d) samples of documents used by the program and in courses. Written journals: The nine curriculum collectors were asked to keep an hour-by-hour log of their seven-week pre-employment preparation experiences in their written journals. They were to capture topics and themes covered during coursework, describe how they were being taught, and reflect on what they were learning in coursework and fieldwork. Data collection took place throughout the seven-week program. Transcriptions of audio recordings: Each curriculum collector was asked to speak daily for five to 10 minutes on a digital audio recorder focusing on their impressions of their preparation that day. These recorded reflections were transcribed at the end of summer pre-employment program. Program and course documents: Curriculum collectors were asked to collect relevant program and course documents such as syllabi, worksheets, readings, and other handouts. To ensure we were getting sufficiently descriptive, relevant, and comparable data, we collected their data on a weekly basis, read this data, and provided feedback. Exit interviews: In the week after they completed coursework in the NYCTF pre-service program, eight of the nine curriculum collectors took part in an in-depth interview focused on their experiences in the NYCTF pre-employment program. The ninth chose not to participate in this interview after twice failing the New York State required mathematics content test and hence not obtaining the transitional teacher license in mathematics.

Pre-service Survey Data

A pre-service (i.e., pre-teaching/post-pre-service-coursework) survey was administered to the entire cohort of NYCTF mathematics candidates at the end of the last week of the 2007 pre-employment program. By matching the names of survey participants with a list provided by NYCDOE, we determined that we surveyed approximately 90 percent of the summer 2007 cohort of NYCTF mathematics candidates

The MetroMath research team developed the survey. Several items were taken from or adapted from existing teacher surveys (e.g., that referenced in Boyd et al., 2006). The survey was comprised of forced choice items, short answer items, and open-ended items that provided the opportunity for explanation or brief essay responses. Taking a typical respondent 40 minutes to complete, the survey inquired about NYCTF participants demographic information, professional and educational backgrounds, initial beliefs about teaching mathematics in high needs New York City schools, and perceptions of their pre-service preparation.

The MetroMath research team took several measures to ensure the validity and reliability of the survey instrument and results. First, to improve the content and face validity of survey items, we spent the 2006-2007 school year observing and interviewing eight in-service mathematics Teaching Fellows. Four MetroMath researchers, including the second author, also advised and taught in-service Fellows at two of the four partner universities and, therefore, had an insiders perspective on them, their preparation in NYCTF, and their experiences in New York City schools. The MetroMath team consulted with administrators at all four university partner sites as we developed the survey and after an initial analysis of survey data.

In 2006, we piloted draft survey items with several dozen pre-service and in-service mathematics Fellows at three of the four partner universities. As part of two-dozen interviews we conducted with mathematics Fellows, we included draft survey items to see if they made sense to mathematics Fellows, if their answers to these questions were meaningful, and if we interpreted their answers correctly. To examine clarity and meaningfulness of items, two mathematics Fellows were interviewed as they completed draft surveys about a month before we administered them in the summer of 2007. Final revisions were made based on their feedback.


The combination of forced-choice and open-ended items on the pre-service survey, self-report data protocols, and interview protocols, resulted in substantial evidence about the nature of NYCTF preparation at the four university partner sites and their participants. We began the curriculum data analysis by combining the journal responses with information gleaned from the transcribed audio reflections that were collected from each of the nine curriculum collectors. The nine documents were organized by the hour and date of data collection and each were approximately 60 single-spaced pages in length. By using an open-coding process of reading and rereading the documents looking for salient themes, we derived a set of nine codes to organize our findings: (a) mathematics content; (b) classroom management and organization; (c) developmental psychology and educational foundations (e.g., philosophy of education); (d) social reconstructionism; (e) multicultural content; (f) instructional design, delivery, and assessment; (g) New York City school context, including reference to state regulations and salary schedules; (h) reflection on clinical experiences or self-reflection; (i) other (e.g., paperwork) or unclear. We selected one code to represent the content emphasis of each half hour of coursework. Generally there were no more than two foci in any one-hour timespan. In the case that there were two foci in a one-hour timespan, each half-hour was coded as one of these. The unclear code captured the few occasions when three or more foci were addressed such that none clearly dominated. This process allowed us to get a good picture of the scope and sequence of university- and NYCTF-provided coursework at each of the four sites (see Table E). As part of final coding, the second author coded three of the nine curriculum documents that the first author coded. The observed percentage agreement on the application of the nine codes to these three documents was 93 percent and Cohens kappa a measure of the correlation of inter-rater coding for this process was 0.90 (Cohen, 1960). Disagreements on the application of codes in the final round were resolved through consensus.

These codes also relate to, but are not synonymous with, the four traditions of teacher education (Liston & Zeichner, 2001) and preparation for the new professionalism (Zeichner, 2010). The first code aligns with the academic tradition and the second with social efficiency. Both align with the expectations of the new professionalism. The third code is consistent with the developmental tradition. The social reconstructionism category included discussions of teaching for social justice and critical perspectives on society and social institutions. Multicultural education is pertinent to both developmentalism and social reconstructionism. The sixth, seventh, and eighth codes have no obvious relationship to the four traditions of teacher education or the new professionalism. What mattered was how course instructors and curriculum materials framed these issues. As our results indicate, these areas, and particularly the sixth, were generally treated in a technical manner that best fits the social efficiency tradition. However, there were times when they were considered from a developmental or a social reconstructionist perspective.

We also analyzed the survey items that dealt with the content and organization of the pre-service university coursework. Because these data included responses to a mix of forced-choice questions, short-answer items, and essay responses to open-ended prompts, we used a mixed analytical approach including exploratory data analysis, basic statistics (e.g., tabulating forced choice responses), and coding of expository responses. For the open-ended items, we developed coding schemes similar to that elaborated for sorting curriculum data. We used both program and survey data in our search for evidence of the four traditions (e.g., academic, social efficiency, developmental, social reconstructionist) in the pre-service program at the four university sites. To evaluate the statistical significance of curricular differences reported by candidates at different universities, we used a non-parametric statistical hypothesis test (i.e., the Mann Whitney test) to analyze data from Likert-scale survey items.


The critical perspective we took in this study was invaluable in helping us understand the nature of pre-service preparation in NYCTF and how it relates to the new professionalism. We adopted this stance principally because we were concerned about the effect that NYCTF was having on mathematics instruction in high-needs New York City schools. However, we made a number of efforts to ensure that we understood the circumstances and heard the voices of the study participants before we reached conclusions about the NYCTF program. As part of the broader study, we regularly met with and observed eight mathematics Teaching Fellows over a two-year period. Based on this, we felt that we understood firsthand much of what the mathematics Teaching Fellows were experiencing. It helped that members of the MetroMath team had worked as instructors, supervisors, advisors, and mentors to Teaching Fellows and other new alternatively certified teachers in high-needs New York City schools. It also helped that members of the MetroMath team, including the two authors, also were former secondary mathematics teachers. The first author had taught mathematics in non-selective urban schools. We respected the decision of individual Teaching Fellows to work in such schools and appreciated that study participants allowed us to observe and talk with them in their first two years of teaching. As we were not out to get them, we avoided the use of biased questions in interviews and on surveys. We have attempted to be fair to these study participants in the presentation of study results (Brantlinger, Cooley, & Brantlinger, 2010; Foote, Brantlinger, Haydar, Smith, & Gonzalez, 2011; Foote, Smith, & Gellert, 2011; Meagher & Brantlinger, 2011).


The study results are organized into four sections. The first describes the coursework provided by the four university partners for NYCTF mathematics. The second provides an overview of the pre-service curriculum provided by NYCTF program. The third section describes the clinical fieldwork and Mathematics Immersion components of NYCTF preparation respectively. In presenting the results we advance two related theses: (a) that the components controlled by NYCTF and one university partner focused on the development of technical competencies and generally aligned with the social efficiency tradition and the expectations of the new professionalism whereas, to varying degrees, the components controlled by the other university partners did not; and (b) that the development of subject-general, rather than mathematics-specific, competencies were prioritized in NYCTFs initial preparation.


This section describes the pre-service coursework provided by the four university partners to NYCTFs prospective mathematics teachers. Consistent with our first thesis, it shows that, taken together, the university curricula were only partially aligned with the social efficiency tradition and the expectations of the new professionalism. Consistent with our second thesis, it shows that, to varying degrees, the university preparation prioritized subject-general over subject-specific concerns. With respect to our first thesis, we previously noted steps that the NYCDOE took to ensure the alignment of university coursework with the practical recommendations of its 2006 policy document and with the other components of NYCTF (described later). Despite these efforts, unique program structures and course adoption policies resulted in marked differences among the four university pre-service curricula for NYCTF mathematics candidates.

Table D. Overview of the Pre-service Curriculum at Partner Universities

University Partner

June 19 28th Coursework

No Clinical Fieldwork

July 2- Aug 1 Coursework Alongside Clinical Fieldwork


* Introduction to Teaching (6 credits)


* Adolescent Learning in the Urban Context (3 credits)

* Teaching Mathematics in New York City (3 credits)


* Human Development in the School Context  (3 credits)

* Secondary Methods: Learning to Teach (3 credits)


* Analysis of Classroom Interaction and Curriculum (3 credits)

* Perspectives on Education: Teaching Children and Adolescents in Cultural Context (3 credits)

* Concepts of Secondary School Mathematics II: Geometry (3 credits)

UnivA featured one comprehensive 80 clock-hour Introduction to Teaching course that ran throughout the summer (Table D). Consistent with the social efficiency tradition, this course was dominated by the development of subject-general competencies, proven techniques, and effective systems. These were generally presented in an atheoretical manner; the emphasis was on how rather than why. With one or two exceptions, explicit discussions of educational theory were not reflected in the curriculum data. The UnivA curriculum provided little, if any, coverage of human and cognitive development, multicultural education, and mathematics-specific instruction areas that received more attention at other universities (Table E).

Of the four NYCTF university curricula, the UnivA curriculum was the most focused on basic skills in instructional design and delivery and classroom management as specified in the NYCDOE (2006) policy document (p. 6) (Table E). It began with the latter topic, featuring videos, role-playing, and case studies that concerned how effective teachers should respond to problematic behavioral issues that arise in the classroom. A curriculum collector at UnivA reflected, one of our homework assignments was to create a list of rules and routines and & we literally wrote a paragraph on every single process that could possibly happen in the classroom; from entering the room, to handing in homework, to passing out papers, to sharpening a pencil, and to really think about every little situation in a classroom. In an exit interview, she reflected:

[UnivA instructors] taught a lot about how to & survive the administration at a New York City school. & They taught us all the particulars of management stuff. They did give us a lot of ideas for different lessons. They taught us how to create the kind of lesson plans in classrooms that your administration is gonna want to see. And, just how to be receptive to criticism and things like that, which I think is huge & because I think that the Fellows are kind of a group of people who arent used to failing.

As this suggests, a major goal of UnivA coursework was to help people who arent used to failing organize classrooms and act in ways that would satisfy administrators. Several guest speakers, including principals and NYCTF alumni, provided information about NYCDOE regulations, school policies, and survival tips for new teachers. Candidates were told to keep an incident notebook to protect themselves and their schools from potential liability in the case of disputes with students. They also spent one afternoon reviewing and practicing building evacuation strategies.

Instructional design also received considerable coverage at UnivA (Tables E & F). One curriculum collector at that university reported, one of our assignments for the summer is to create a very large binder full of lesson plans and resources that we can use in the classroom; so entering the classroom well already have over 25 lesson plans at our disposal. Participants spent about 10 hours of the 80-hour Introduction to Teaching course working in groups to develop a set of three essentially disconnected mathematics lesson plans that were revised based on peer feedback and later were presented to the entire class. While UnivA instructors gave the groups considerable flexibility, they asked that their lesson plans fit a subject-general model of instruction that was required in many New York City schools (Traub, 2003). Originally designed for writing instruction, this lesson model included the following components: Do Now, Mini Lesson, Guided Practice, Independent Practice, and Summary. The second curriculum collector at UnivA described learning about these components as follows:

[Today] we are to circulate to each professor who will teach us about a different portion of a lesson plan. My professor started with the Guided and Independent Practice. The guided practice comes after the Mini Lesson and is guided work by the teacher. We were taught to teach, review, and reinforce. The Independent Practice is self-governing and free. Students are allowed to work alone or in groups on work assigned by the teacher. The next professor taught us how to close our lesson. We are to summarize main points at the end of every lesson. We are also to employ some sort of exit strategy that will allow us to assess who understood the topic of the day.

While UnivA coursework generally framed planning, pedagogy, and assessment as technical matters, there was a brief consideration to how learning theory might inform them. To help candidates set higher-ordered learning goals, Gardners multiple intelligences and Blooms Taxonomy were briefly outlined during the second week. However, there were no references to these theories in future weeks or as the lesson planning activities unfolded.

UnivA coursework was subject-general in orientation. Neither curriculum collector at UnivA included a substantive discussion of mathematics (e.g., its nature, how to best teach it) in their daily accounts of university coursework. As the previous excerpt indicates, the curriculum data left the impression that there was little that distinguished mathematics lessons from lessons in other subject areas. UnivAs coverage of lesson planning also was not informed by the mathematics-specific recommendations of professional organizations (e.g., the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics), mathematics education scholarship, or problem-based approaches to teaching mathematics.

Table E. University Coverage of Different Content Areas as Represented in Curriculum Data


UnivA (%)

UnivB (%)

UnivC (%)

UnivD (%)*

Instructional Design & Delivery





Management & Organization





Mathematics Content





Multicultural Content





New York City School Context





Developmentalism & Foundations





Social Reconstructionism





Reflection on Fieldwork or Self





Other or Program-Related










Notes. * UnivD included 120 hours of university coursework whereas the others included 80 hours.

Table F. Emphasis on Two Teacher Education Topics in University Coursework

In summer coursework, extent to which you learned about &

UnivA (n = 56)

Median, Mean (Std. Dev.)

Other Univs (n = 211)

Median, Mean, (Std. Dev.)

Mann Whit-ney U


classroom management

5,     4.80     (0.40)

4,     3.53,     (0.80)



lesson planning

5,     4.61     (0.56)

4,     3.64,     (0.87)



Notes. * indicates asymptotic significance two-tailed at the p < 0.01 level. Likert-Scale Choices: 5 = Extensive Amount, 4 = Explored in Depth, 3 = Spent Some Time Doing or Discussing, 2 = Touched on It Briefly, 1 = Not at All.

UnivBs pre-service coursework also aligned with the NYCDOEs (2006) social efficiency policy recommendations but less so than UnivA coursework. UnivB placed a comparable emphasis on instructional design and delivery but less of an emphasis on classroom management than did UnivA (Tables E & F). Unlike UnivAs atheoretical and entirely subject-general curriculum, UnivBs social efficiency oriented curriculum frequently was punctuated by developmental (e.g., cognitive development), social (e.g., competitive individualism), and mathematics-specific concerns.

UnivBs first course, Adolescent Learning in the Urban Context, had a dual social efficiency and developmental thrust. While technical approaches to planning, instruction, and classroom management were presented, the curriculum data shows that there were fairly regular attempts to use developmental theory inclusive of psychological and multicultural theory to provide a foundation for these techniques. One curriculum collector reported:

Today we got the opportunity to see what it would be like for an English Language Learner inside of a math classroom being taught in English. An Asian [candidate] got in front of the class and started teaching in Cantonese, and & an Indian [candidate], started teaching in Hindi. & So, what do you do when your class has English language learners in it who will be completely lost if youre teaching only in English?

However, while more explicitly theoretical than UnivA coursework, UnivB coursework specified no clear or consistent theory to undergird its approaches to planning, instruction, and assessment. We note that, as the largest university partner for mathematics, UnivB offered multiple sections of courses and instructors seemed to exercise discretion in making instructional decisions, resulting in some within-university differences. For example, one section of UnivBs Adolescent Development course included several hour-long discussions of classroom management whereas the other sections did not. With this in mind, in the second week of coursework, one UnivB curriculum collector in one of the latter sections complained, we are going to be facing a classroom in two months - we have no clue. Everybody talks about classroom management - we have no clue.

UnivBs Teaching Mathematics in New York City course relied on group teamwork to have enrollees design lesson plans, deliver microteaching assignments, and reflect on their clinical experiences in New York City schools. Similar to UnivAs Introduction to Teaching, the major course assignment in UnivBs Teaching Mathematics in NYC was for groups to develop a set of written mathematics lesson plans and present or microteach them to their classmates. During the third week of this four-week course, a UnivB participant reported:

In class today, once again, we just had more people get up and do lessons and critique them. Today I did mine, which was on combining like terms. And that was pretty cool.  The teacher said that I didnt have enough energy, so I definitely need to work on my energy and the presentation I have in front of the classroom.

Unlike curriculum collectors at UnivA, UnivB collectors presented evidence that their coursework conversations about planning, instruction, and assessment were specific to mathematics. One UnivB curriculum collector reported:

One thing that we talked about [today] was that, with math problems, there is usually more than one way to solve a problem; so different strategies have to be taken into account. So we cant be quick to shoot a student down and tell them that theyre wrong because of a way they solved a problem. ... A student might solve something differently than what you may have wanted but you didnt necessarily indicate to use a certain method. Is that student wrong? No, not necessarily, because we have to take into consideration that there are several ways to do things in math, and sometimes it may be a good thing because the student might even be showing that theyre advanced in that area.

However, at best, such mathematics-specific conversations comprised less than 12 hours of UnivBs 40-hour Teaching Mathematics course, inclusive of 6 hours of watching peers micro-teach their lessons plans. In part, this was because the course incorporated subject-general concerns about management, organization, and instruction (e.g., how to organize groupwork) that participants encountered in their clinical fieldwork. It also was because the second major course assignment had mathematics candidates develop a classroom management plan that included student behavior policies, grading policies, communication with parents, and management of materials. We also note that, while mathematics-specific approaches as outlined by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2006) were referenced in UnivB syllabi, there was no evidence that such approaches or related discussions of mathematics education scholarship were seriously considered.

One modification UnivB made was to divide the Teaching Mathematics course into sections that each focused on specific grade level bands: grade levels 5-7, 7-8, 9-10 (Integrated Algebra), or 10-12 (geometry through calculus). This allowed candidates to focus on a subject-specific curriculum and grade level pacing sequences of their choosing. This arrangement also provided opportunities for more of an in-depth look at NYCDOE adopted curricula for those grade levels (i.e., Prentice Hall, Math A; Glencoe, Impact Math). However, a problem with this plan was that many candidates had not yet been hired by schools and therefore did not know what grade levels they would teach. This was a problem for mathematics candidates at all four universities; to varying degrees, NYCTF candidates spent a considerable amount of time designing lessons that may not have been pertinent to their initial teaching placements.

The UnivC curriculum was unique amongst the university curricula in the emphasis it placed on developmental theory. Consistent with the developmental expectation that teachers become reflective practitioners, this university provided frequent opportunities for candidates to reconsider their prior experiences as students and contemplate their experiences in clinical fieldwork. At the same time, UnivC placed less emphasis on social efficiency techniques for lesson planning and for classroom management and organization than did UnivA and UnivB (Tables E & F). This meant that UnivC curriculum did not align well with the recommendations of the NYCDOE policy document and the expectations of the new professionalism.

UnivCs Adolescent Development course included in-depth and extended discussions of theories of learning and cognitive development developed by Piaget, Vygotsky, and Gardner among others. The course also used mathematics-specific videos in which very young children articulated their quantitative thinking while using counters to solve basic addition and subtraction word problems. The major course assignment, largely completed in class, was for groups to create and share short movies that centered on an aspect of adolescent development such as puberty. Course participants also watched movies (e.g., Mad Hot Ballroom) and read articles that addressed issues of diversity. As one UnivC curriculum collector reflected:

The main purpose that they showed the movies was number one to know that our students come from different backgrounds, and also the fact that therere reasons for their behavior and sometimes we dont see everything that goes on in the background. And how we have to be aware that our students are people. And that there are cultural differences, and there are many differences besides cultural, and basically we have to take into account and be aware of as we have these students sitting in our classrooms and trying to teach them.  

As part of the Adolescent Development course, mathematics candidates also spent a day in the field exploring an New York City neighborhood, community center, and interviewing students and community members.

UnivCs Secondary Methods: Learning to Teach course had a subject-general focus similar to the introductory methods courses at UnivA and UnivB. During the second week of the course, one UnivC participant described a typical class meeting as follows: [todays class was] pretty much the same routine as yet again we do our check-in where everyone says their highs and lows for summer-school recap from the day and [then] we all do group work again for our lesson plans. A distinguishing feature of this 40-hour course was that more than ten hours was reserved for shared reflections on clinical experiences. However, while responsive to the felt needs of candidates, reflections on the highs and lows of clinical fieldwork resulted in an ad hoc treatment of some of the same instructional, management, and school context issues that were addressed more systematically at UnivA and UnivB.

UnivCs Secondary Methods course had candidates read again in class and write responses to several case studies and teacher-oriented articles. The central course text was Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). According to its authors, Understanding by Design presents a developmental and subject-general approach to lesson planning that focuses on teaching for understanding and fostering authentic student thinking. Participants spent about six hours in class working in groups using Understanding by Designs backwards-design approach to sketch unit plans, then fully develop four to six lesson plans from this unit which they would present to each other at the end of the course. Early in the Secondary Methods course, one curriculum collector included the following description of this process:

Then we have the Understanding by Design. That was something that we talked about today was about writing lessons and stage development in our lessons. So we were assigned in groups and we had to basically come up with Stage 1 and asking essential questions and having understandings and soon well be able to, students will know, etc. & So, we went through that and we first had to come up with something basic [and] general that we do every day and/or something that is very a simple procedure and write up a lesson plan for that. So our group chose how to make a grilled cheese sandwich and we had to write down basic [goals]: Students will be able to know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, students will be able to know the different safety procedures that go along with this, students will be able to know why some people have different preferences for ingredients, etc.  

This excerpt highlights the subject-general nature of the Understanding by Design methodology. Mathematics-specific approaches to teaching mathematics received spotty consideration in UnivCs Secondary Methods course. The most sustained effort in this regard occurred when the course instructor asked candidates to solve logic puzzles and encouraged them to use these problems with their future mathematics students.

Although UnivC curriculum provided a clear theoretical perspective from which to view education, curriculum collectors at this university described struggling with UnivCs developmental approach. In her fieldwork site, one UnivC collector attempted to teach a lesson on fraction relationships that was similar to a developmental explanation she had seen in her college coursework. In this lesson, she used a visual representation of a set of 12 boxes to compare the values of ½ (i.e., 6 boxes) and 2/3 (i.e., 8 boxes).  

I was able to show it visually, which I know is an effective way of learning. I went back to my seat and I thought about it and I figured that was okay, they got it. They got the answer but I dont think they understood the math [i.e., the comprehension or manipulation of symbolic expressions] behind it. So I felt that I was doing a disservice to them by not showing them the math. So, the second class, I had to do the same thing and I showed them the math and it totally didnt work. So I wasnt sure of it was better or not and I thought maybe it was a little bit better because I showed them the math. And then and they kind of got it. & So, [in my UnivC] class Im thinking about it again and asked the other Fellows who [had observed me teach] which one they thought was better. And they thought the first one was better and they said because the task at hand is only to do it visually and not to know the math. And I don't know how I feel about that. I think that you can show them visually but I think they still have to understand the math. And if they walk away, maybe the objective at that point is to just show them visually. But if they walk away not knowing the math behind something and then you give them the math problems, I feel like then I didnt effectively teach the lesson because they couldnt do the math. So, I don't know.

This curriculum collector appeared not to recognize that the visual (i.e., drawing six of 12 boxes) and the math (i.e., symbolic expressions like 6/12 and 1/2) were different representations of the same fraction concept, an issue that was addressed in the UnivC readings but apparently was not clearly understood. It might also be noted that the other curriculum collector and a number of survey respondents expressed similar misgivings about the developmental what many referred to as a theoretical approach taken at UnivC. Their hesitations and criticisms seemed to stem, in no small part, from the fact that developmental approaches to mathematics instruction that call for students to develop and articulate their own understandings contrast with teacher-centered approaches that dominate U.S. schooling (Stigler & Hiebert, 1999).

In sum, with respect to our first thesis, in minimizing coverage of technique, and instead laying a developmental foundation for teaching, UnivCs curriculum was inconsistent with the social efficiency expectations of the NYCDOE policy and the new professionalism. With respect to our second thesis, UnivCs attention to mathematics-specific concerns was spotty and unsustained.

UnivDs pre-service coursework also failed to align with the social efficiency expectations of the new professionalism and the NYCDOE policy document but for somewhat different reasons than UnivCs coursework. At UnivD, technical approaches to planning, instruction, and management simply were not priorities (Tables E & F). Instead, multicultural, social reconstructionist, and academic concerns dominated. Curriculum data indicates at least a quarter of the course time at UnivD concerned multicultural and social reconstructionist content (Table E). The UnivD curriculum was the most focused on mathematics content and, to a lesser extent, mathematics-specific instruction.

UnivDs Analysis of Classroom Interaction and Curriculum course was team-taught by two adjunct instructors and various perspectives on pedagogy were introduced. This teaching methods course devoted less than 8-hours to instructional design and delivery, considerably less time than the similar teaching methods courses at the other three universities (Table E). However, despite this, UnivD discussions of planning and instruction were more mathematics-specific than similar discussions at the other universities. Course readings included chapters from Van de Walles (2007) Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2006) Focal Points for School Mathematics. Course participants were asked to complete several written assignments based on these readings and other readings that addressed differentiating mathematics instruction and making classroom management equitable.

UnivDs Teaching Children and Adolescents in Cultural Context course was unique amongst university courses for foregrounding multicultural and social reconstructionist themes. This course was an amalgam of a multicultural education course, a course on critical pedagogy, and a subject-general introduction to teaching. As part of this course, which the instructors and curriculum collectors referred to as the multicultural education course, participants were led to confront and reject racial privilege ideologies. The culture and lived experiences of urban youth of color, and how these might affect mathematics teaching and learning, featured prominently in course discussions. In reflecting on a course discussion about teaching in a way that the students could understand what it is that youre talking [about], a UnivD curriculum collector commented,

Its an issue that comes close to home because I understand as an African American male that there needs to be differentiation because some of the concepts that we went over in my Adolescent Education [course] didnt relate to anything I was going through in the actual world and a disconnect between math and the actual world is definitely detrimental to [my] education.

UnivDs Teaching Children course also included a serious consideration of social reconstructionist themes. Several hours of classroom time were devoted to social enlightenment, political activism, and critical pedagogy. In the second week, the same curriculum collector reflected, Today in our multicultural education class we spoke about using social justice issues in the math classroom. We watched a video on bottled water and what social issues bottled water presents.

UnivD also was unique among the four university partners for including a mathematics content course during the pre-service component, namely, Concepts of Secondary School Mathematics II: Geometry. This course was essentially a refresher of basic Euclidian Geometry that drew heavily on Serras (2003) Discovering Geometry textbook designed for use in secondary settings. UnivD participants completed several projects using the Geometers Sketchpad educational software program and were assessed through traditional examinations. The addition of this geometry course meant that UnivD teacher candidates completed 40 more hours of initial coursework than other NYCTF candidates. The inclusion of an extra content course fit with the academic tradition. However, its inclusion challenged the policy assumption that early-entry ATCP participants possessed subject-matter expertise.

To summarize, UnivAs coursework might be described as unadulterated social efficiency, focusing heavily on technical approaches to classroom management and instructional design. The UnivB curriculum was a more restrained version of social efficiency punctuated by a range of theoretical, social, and mathematics-specific considerations. The UnivC curriculum had a clear developmental thrust, inclusive of its treatment of lesson planning, and all but ignored social efficiency techniques. The UnivD curriculum had an academic and multicultural focus that drew as much on social reconstructionism as it did on social efficiency. While UnivD included a geometry course, none of the university curricula included a systematic and sustained consideration of mathematics-specific instruction.


This section describes the pre-service curriculum for mathematics candidates developed and provided by NYCTF staff. Consistent with our first thesis, we show that the NYCTF-delivered curriculum was technical in orientation and hence met the expectations of the 2006 NYCDOE policy document and the new professionalism. Consistent with our second thesis, we also show that this curriculum was subject-general. In both of these regards, it was similar to the UnivA curriculum.

All prospective teachers in NYCTF participated in 34 hours of Student Achievement Framework (SAF) Advisory, 20 hours of Friday Content Seminars, and a six-hour orientation. These curricular components were developed and delivered by staff at NYCTF and hence were independent from the university coursework described in the previous section. SAF Advisory was offered three days a week, two hours a day, for six weeks. SAF sessions took place at the end of the day, generally following participation in an all morning field placement and two to four hours of university coursework. SAF Advisory was taught by advisors; New York City mathematics teachers, who mostly had participated in earlier NYCTF cohorts. Some 25 to 30 mathematics candidates were enrolled in sections of SAF Advisory at each of the four university sites.

SAF Advisory was developed primarily as a subject-general introduction to teaching and secondarily as a forum for reflection on clinical fieldwork experiences. It was based on the Teaching for Student Achievement (TfSA) Guidebook, a written curriculum developed by TNTP (2005) in collaboration with Teach for America. The TfSA Guidebook was required reading for SAF Advisory. Its purpose was to offer a solid base for excellent teaching and provide alternative route teacher candidates in mathematics and other areas with practical tools that [they] can use immediately in the classroom (TNTP, 2005, pp. viii). As the introduction to the Guidebook reader stated, your chief responsibility as a new teacher is to immediately effect gains in student achievement, while contending with the countless challenges you will face working in a high-need school (p. viii). More than 400 pages in length, the TfSA Guidebook was divided into two major sections: (a) instructional design and delivery and (b) classroom management and culture (p. viii). The first section addressed topics such as high impact teaching strategies, teaching for student achievement, standards-based lesson planning, differentiated instruction, and data-driven assessment. The second section addressed such issues as developing procedures and routines, minimizing classroom inefficiencies, creating a no excuses classroom, and promoting student achievement through diversity (TNTP, 2005, pp. i-iv). Prospective Teaching Fellows were expected to read assigned readings from the Guidebook outside of class and to come prepared to discuss them in SAF sessions.

SAF Advisory and the TfSA Guidebook were consistent with the social efficiency tradition and the technical expectations of the new professionalism. The Guidebooks authors claimed that teaching & is becoming much more of a science than art and cited research that allows us to identify precisely what effective teachers do that works (p. 154). They asserted that the  proven, subject-general methods of effective teachers (i.e., teachers who produce large gains in student achievement) had been identified and could be relayed to new teachers in a short period of time. Having internalized these messages, one UnivC curriculum collector reflected:

HITS are high impact teaching strategies that we learned about in [SAF Advisory]. And once a lesson incorporates one or two HITS, then its been proven to increase student retention rate of the particular subject by 20 or 40 percent, which is important. Were teaching to lower the achievement gap, and we need students to remember the things that theyre learning and one way to do that is to have them engaged in the material.

Indicating the coverage of the same or similar material in different sections of SAF Advisory, a curriculum collector at UnivC similarly reported:

In our SAF session [today] we spent a great deal of time discussing the Achievement Gap. We worked in groups and shared examples from an article we read for homework. We brainstormed ideas on how to close any gap and how it applied to achievement. We were also introduced to the eight high-impact teaching methods.

These excerpts illustrate how, through claims about relaying a body of ostensibly proven facts about teaching and learning, SAF Advisory and the TfSA Guidebook sought to restrict the autonomy of prospective teachers to make their own instructional decisions. The TfSA chapter on high impact teaching strategies, required reading for all SAF participants, stated: You should not think of these strategies as optional methods with which you might dabble periodically. You have no choice but to wholeheartedly embrace these strategiesthose with a proven record of affecting student achievement (p. 154).

At the same time, NYCDOE and NYCTF officials (e.g., Former New York City Schools Chancellor Levy, 2000) did not envision the Teaching Fellows as simpleminded, conformist cogs but instead as superior teachers who would help the district implement new policies that veteran teachers often resisted (Goodnough, 2004). In line with this, SAF Advisory positioned prospective Fellows both to fit into the existing system and to be agents of positive change (TNTP, 2005, p. 382). The concluding chapter in the TfSA Guidebook called on new teachers to bring their leadership and instructional skills to bear on difficult problems and to change an inequitable system (p. 352). However, recognizing that first being accepted into the school community is essential, SAF advisors went over several steps described by the TfSA authors that novice teachers should take to gain acceptance and support in challenging contexts. In the end, SAF Advisory prioritized institutional conformity over teacher agency.

Of the thirty-two hours of SAF outlined by one curriculum collector at UnivC, only three addressed issues other than management, organization, planning, instruction, and assessment. Curriculum data indicated that other SAF sections were similar, with the exception of one section in which candidates frequently solved logic puzzles. As part of SAF Advisory, mathematics candidates designed plans for instruction, assessment, and management plans and hence overlapped with university coursework. However, SAF instructors asked mathematics candidates to incorporate high-impact teaching strategies and other subject-general techniques into their plans. Despite this technical focus, theoretical and social issues were not anathema. Similar to UnivA coursework, SAF Advisory and the TfSA Guidebook featured brief overviews of such psychological theories as Gardners Seven Intelligences and Blooms Taxonomy. Based on the TfSA chapter titled Promoting Student Achievement Through Diversity, SAF Advisory also presented discussions of such multicultural issues as the danger of teacher color-blindness and racial privilege. About the latter topic, one UnivB curriculum collector reflected:

In our [SAF] session, we started off the day with an activity called the privilege line.  In this activity you step forward if the statement applies to you, and you step backwards if the statement does not apply to you. Afterwards we discussed how to approach your students and teaching style knowing that you may or may not be able to relate to the students in your class.

A curriculum collector at UnivC described how the same activity played out in a different section of SAF Advisory:

If both of your parents went to college, take a step forward, or something of that nature.  And basically, when we were done, it was kind of interesting. & All the white people were in front, most of the minorities were in the middle and several people who were not necessarily American-born citizens were in the back. & But pretty much, all minorities were way in the back. &  And basically, that just kind of opened the door for discussion about how youre going to approach your class and stuff like that. You may come from a totally different world than [your students]. Knowing that you might be so different from them, how do you approach that? So we just kind of discussed that, how to deal with those things, finding a comfort zone and things of that level.

The SAF coverage of multicultural and developmental issues was brief and generally superficial. The curriculum data indicates that, in SAF sessions at all four university sites, multicultural issues received no more than four hours of coverage and were diluted in the sense that critical, social reconstructionist perspectives on schools and society were glossed over. As the Promoting Student Achievement through Diversity chapter title indicated, the TfSA Guidebook tended to reduce diversity issues to roadblocks that effective teachers needed to navigate in order to get on with the business of raising student achievement and managing classrooms. Curriculum data indicated that SAF discussions framed diversity issues as technical problems that could be managed and resolved using research-based approaches.

NYCTF-delivered Friday Content Seminars, which were comprised of four hour-long workshop sessions once a week for five weeks, elaborated on similar themes to SAF Advisory (e.g., data-driven instruction, creating a culture of achievement). NYCTF participants were allowed some flexibility in choosing seminars. While generally focused on technique and hence consistent with the social efficiency tradition, a few one-hour seminars featured such titles as: the culture of productivity and acting white and social justice math.

It is important to note that, despite the efforts that NYCDOE and NYCTF officials took to have the university- and NYCTF-delivered portions of the pre-service curriculum complement one another while also meeting the expectations of the 2006 NYCDOE policy document, there was considerable duplication of topics. This was particularly true at UnivA and UnivB, where candidates were asked to develop lesson and management plans in both university coursework and SAF Advisory. Candidates at these universities expressed frustration with this situation.


NYCTFs pre-service preparation also included clinical fieldwork component and Mathematics Immersion for candidates who needed more mathematics credits. Due to space limitations and our focus on the nature of teacher preparation coursework, we only provide overviews of these two components.

Clinical fieldwork comprised 60 of the 200 formal clock-hours of NYCTFs pre-service preparation. While this was a substantial component of NYCTFs initial preparation, as noted, this experience is very brief when compared to clinical component of traditional teacher education programs. However, it is consistent with the academic tradition that asserts that prospective teachers who are presumed to have subject-matter expertise require minimal teacher preparation inclusive of clinical fieldwork. It is also consistent with the good enough preparation endorsed by the new professionalism.

Mathematics candidates reported considerable variation both in the nature of their clinical experiences and in time spent in the field. On surveys, the typical mathematics candidate indicated that they fulfilled the 60-hour clinical requirement. However, one in ten indicated that they completed less than 40 hours and another one in 10 indicated that they completed 80 hours or more. (Teacher candidates needed to complete 40 hours to meet the NYSEDs alternative certification requirements.) Some mathematics candidates reported spending most of their time observing their cooperating teacher, others reported spending at least half of their time teaching a whole class, and still others reported spending the majority of their time working with small groups of students or individual students. Candidates views of their cooperating teachers varied widely; some described observing positive examples of mathematics teaching, whereas others said that they learned what not to do. NYCTF clinical experiences also took place in remedial summer school classes that frequently were comprised of fewer than ten students and, hence, were not representative of what teaching would look like during the regular school year. A number of mathematics candidates also completed their fieldwork in settings that did not match their future placements (e.g., secondary or middle school candidates in elementary or non-mathematics classrooms, secondary candidates in middle school settings). With such a large number of candidates, and the limited availability of summer sites, apparently it was difficult to place NYCTF candidates in optimal summer school settings. Despite such issues, on surveys, many mathematics candidates indicated that clinical fieldwork was the most valuable aspect of NYCTFs initial preparation. Many also stated that they would have liked to spend more time in the field prior to becoming teachers of record.

The 2006 NYCDOE policy document stipulated that alternative route participants who entered with deficiencies in state required content coursework in mathematics and science were to receive additional content preparation from their ATCP. In response, NYCTF required mathematics candidates to complete a 40-hour Mathematics Immersion course a credit-bearing course at their assigned university partner in the two weeks prior to the start of the regular seven-week pre-service program. The curriculum data makes it clear that the focus of Mathematics Immersion at all four university sites was on the pre-calculus content that was likely to appear on the Content Specialty Test (CST) that candidates had to pass in order to become alternatively certified teachers.

Because it reviewed mathematics content, the inclusion of Mathematics Immersion coursework appeared consistent with the academic tradition of teacher preparation (Liston & Zeichner, 1991). Again, ironically, it was deemed necessary precisely because the typical NYCTF mathematics candidate had not taken much mathematics coursework as an undergraduate; more than five in six NYCTF were required to participate in Mathematics Immersion. However, apparently because mathematics candidates had otherwise stellar academic credentials, their limited content background was considered sufficient to teach mathematics in high-needs New York City schools.


We included commentary about our findings throughout the results section. In this concluding section, we illustrate how our results simultaneously support, extend, nuance, and challenge the hypothesis that such early-entry ATCPs as NYCTF prepare program participants to meet the expectations of the new professionalism. Finally, because we are not opponents, we end the paper with a brief discussion of the promise of early-entry ATCPs.

NYCTFs Initial Preparation and The New Professionalism

Our research examines the initial preparation of mathematics teacher candidates in NYCTF. Our results generally are consistent with the claim that such early-entry ATCPs as NYCTF promote the new professionalism by preparing good enough teachers for high needs urban schools, eroding teacher autonomy, and diluting theoretical considerations like multicultural education in teacher preparation (Zeichner, 2010). Our study details how recent teacher certification policies and such new organizations as NYCTF and TNTP have attempted to ensure that the initial preparation of alternative route mathematics teachers is streamlined, pragmatic, and narrowly focused on technique. Those components, controlled by NYCTF and one university partner, were particularly focused on practical skills, top-down procedures, and efficient systems.

With respect to the new professionalism, teacher autonomy was implicitly or explicitly discouraged in NYCTFs initial preparation for mathematics teachers despite some official rhetoric to the contrary. Major components of this preparation inculcated uncritical conformity to administrative authority and to ostensibly proven techniques. As these techniques were proven, mathematics candidates apparently had little need for theoretical understandings and they had little formal opportunity to critique the techniques under consideration or to consider alternative approaches. With the exception of those at one university (i.e., UnivC), mathematics candidates had little opportunity to reflect on their own beliefs, their prior experiences as students, and on their summer experiences in their clinical fieldwork setting.

With the exception of the curriculum at one university partner, multicultural education was not a serious consideration in NYCTFs initial preparation. This was unfortunate as the typical mathematics candidate again was white, was an outsider to NYC, and had little experience in high-needs school settings. In a separate analysis, we found that a number of NYCTF mathematics candidates openly articulated deficit views of students of color and their parents on the pre-service survey (Brantlinger, Cooley, & Brantlinger, 2010). The marginalization of multicultural education in NYCTF was perhaps to be expected as research suggests that this also occurs in the initial preparation of TFA teachers (Darling-Hammond, 1994; Popkewitz, 1998; Veltri, 2008, 2010). Of course, many traditional teacher education programs also fail to effectively incorporate multicultural concerns (Ladson-Billings, 1999). That said, it would seem that such early-entry ATCPs as NYCTF and TFA de-emphasize multicultural education and dilute its critical aspects precisely because these fail to point to straightforward approaches to managing students and improving their performance on standardized exams. However, as we showed, such issues as racism and white privilege did receive a brief and depoliticized consideration in NYCTFs initial preparation. This indicates that, while early-entry ATCPs can be linked to the new professionalisms attacks on multiculturalism, these attacks may be unintentional or dysconscious on the part of program leadership. In terms of this last point, the current or former leaders of TFA, TNTP, and NYCTF (e.g., Wendy Kopp, Michelle Rhee) have never publically acknowledged that their organizational missions of sending underprepared graduates from prestigious universities to teach in high minority urban schools or what critical scholars of color see as an attempt to save poor students of color from themselves and their culture (Martin, 2007, p. 13) is rooted in social class privilege and myths of cultural superiority. Of course, this does not mean such organizations and their leaders should not be held accountable for what amounts to anti-multiculturalist work. How the leaders of such organizations as NYCTF, TNTP, and TFA view issues of cultural diversity and multicultural education is an issue that merits further research.

Extending and Nuancing the Hypothesized Link between Early-Entry ATCPs and the New Professionalism

Zeichner (2010) argues that, just as the new professionalism envisions teachers as technicians, early-entry ATCPs limit teacher preparation to those techniques believed to raise student achievement and close the achievement gap. While our results generally support this claim, they nuance it by showing that initial mathematics teacher preparation in such early-entry ATCPs as NYCTF emphasize subject-general instructional techniques to the exclusion of subject-specific techniques. None of the components of the NYCTFs initial preparation featured a full-blown teaching methods course that might develop mathematics-specific instructional competencies or the content knowledge necessary for teaching. This might be surprising given that such courses have been shown to improve mathematics teacher effectiveness (Monk, 1994). It also is surprising given that subject-specific teaching methods courses address technical concerns related to planning, instruction, and assessment that would appear consistent with the social efficiency tradition. However, mathematics methods may not have been systematically addressed in NYCTFs initial preparation precisely because developmental theory traditionally undergirds subject-specific methods courses (Labaree, 2005; Van de Walle, 2007). Mathematics methods courses taught in traditional teacher preparation programs generally are designed to shift mathematics instruction away from a teacher-centered model that focuses narrowly on basic procedural skills to a student-centered or developmental model that addresses both concepts and procedures. Indeed, supporters of early-entry ATCPs (e.g., Finn & Petrilli, 2007) imply that developmental what they label progressive approaches are part and parcel of traditional teacher education and should be reduced or eliminated because they distract attention away from practical concerns related to raising achievement. The lack of exposure to these ideas in the pre-service coursework, or through carefully selected clinical experiences, means that NYCTFs mathematics candidates likely will enter the classroom without the essential knowledge needed to help students understand important mathematical concepts and procedures. The disregard for subject-specific teaching methods in early-entry ATCPs is another issue that merits further investigation. We note here that plan to use our data on NYCTF mathematics candidates to explore this and related issues.

The implication that such early-entry ATCPs as NYCTF are clearly designed to meet the expectations of the new professionalism also does not seem to hold, at least as long as university educators are involved. We showed that, despite the NYCDOE and NYCTF policy press, the initial preparation of NYCTF mathematics teachers was realized quite differently at four university partner sites, with only one site (i.e., UnivA) appearing to meet expectations. This appeared to be because and administrators at UnivB, UnivC and UnivD expressed this to us in phone conversations teacher educators in schools of education generally reject purely technical approaches to teacher preparation (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005; Darling-Hammond et al., 2005; Labaree, 2005; Ladson-Billings, 1999; Zeichner, 1993). They see the need for pre-service preparation to be deep and extended so that a serious consideration of developmental, multicultural, and social reconstructionist ideas can occur.

Teacher educators who venture into substantive theory and or entertain progressive values risk alienating prospective teachers in early-entry ATCPs. A substantial number of NYCTF mathematics candidates (excluding those at UnivA) complained on surveys that their university coursework was overly theoretical and impractical. Given the early-entry nature of their preparation, they felt a pressing need to quickly master a basic repertoire of instructional competencies. However, there also were mathematics candidates who observed limitations of the overly technical, streamlined, and subject-general approaches to teacher preparation. On surveys or in interviews, a number of candidates expressed concerns about their lack of mathematics-specific understandings and strategies that they could draw upon in their first year of teaching (Meagher & Brantlinger, 2011). Moreover, when both the NYCTF- and the university-controlled coursework focused similarly on instructional design and management, candidates complained about redundancies and wasted time.

Teacher educators that fail to help alternative route teachers get up to speed in a short period of time also risk alienating policymakers. University administrator and faculty attachment to developmental, reconstructionist, and academic traditions as well as multicultural education seems to explain why, in subsequent years, NYCTF chose the one university partner that met social efficiency expectations to be the sole university partner for mathematics teacher preparation. It also may explain why the New York State Board of Regents paved the way for organizations like TNTP and TFA to start their own teacher preparation and certification programs in New York City without the involvement of university partners (Foderaro, 2010; Otterman, 2011).

Zeichner (2010) contends that university-based teacher educators need to be proactive in responding to such trends. He recommends that schools of education build stronger partnerships with local communities and school systems, particularly those that are less advantaged. He encourages traditional teacher educators to join popular struggles for social and economic justice in schools and society. He also encourages university-based teacher educators to get beyond an unreflective defense of their programs in the face of criticism and competition. This would include the acknowledgement that schools of education could do better to recruit and prepare teachers who want to work in high-needs urban schools, to place student teachers in clinical settings that match program philosophy, and to link theory to practice. We agree with these recommendations while acknowledging that addressing them would require a shift in how schools of education support and evaluate the work of their faculty and staff.


Although we have mainly addressed concerns and flaws, not all is wrong with early-entry ATCPs. NYCTF has attracted a large number of committed and promising mathematics teachers (Meagher & Brantlinger, 2011). Some bring to teaching strong backgrounds in mathematics, others have valuable prior professional experience, and others exhibit cultural competence in the classroom. Others admit to weaknesses in these and other areas and express a desire to improve. NYCTF participants in our study wrote or spoke about entering the teaching profession because they liked working with kids or because they wanted to give back to those who were less fortunate than them.

We believe that well designed early-entry ATCPs are appropriate for certain types of prospective teachers. College graduates who come to teaching with experience working with groups of children or adolescents, or with good understandings of pedagogy or the cultural backgrounds of their future students make good candidates for early-entry ATCPs (see Scribner & Akiba, 2010). While not the typical mathematics candidate, there were NYCTF mathematics candidates who entered with such experience and understandings. However, it seems necessary to reemphasize that early-entry routes to full-time teaching jobs force many prospective and novice teachers to frantically search for proven techniques and systems that will help them survive in difficult teaching contexts and in a profession far more complex than most had initially assumed to be the case. These pressures facilitate a survivors mentality and a tendency to reject deeper considerations and theories which could provide them with a foundation for real understanding of teaching and learning. With experience and further education, many will develop deeper understanding of their students and the mathematics knowledge needed to effectively teach those students. This may strengthen their commitments to the schools in which they teach, the communities they serve, and the teaching profession. Yet, the current direction of national policy (Duncan, 2009; U.S. Department of Education, 2010) would appear to discourage this development as states across the country ramp up generic or a one-size-fits-all teacher evaluation and accountability systems systems which essentially promote the new professionalism and good enough teachers for high-needs urban schools.


Ellen Brantlinger, Ann Nutter Coffman, Laurel Cooley, David Imig, Jen Richards, Linda Valli, Hollie Young, and reviewers at Teachers College Record provided useful feedback on drafts of this article. Matthew Griffin checked statistical calculations.


1. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under the grant number ESI-0333753.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 7, 2013, p. 1-44
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17053, Date Accessed: 1/20/2022 1:02:35 AM

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  • Andrew Brantlinger
    University of Maryland, College Park
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    ANDREW BRANTLINGER is an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park. His research interests are in the areas of mathematics education, teacher education, critical pedagogy, and critical sociology. Recent publications include “Rethinking Critical Mathematics” in Educational Studies in Mathematics, 2011, and “Discussing discussion: A video club in the service of math teachers’ National Board preparation” (co-authored with Miriam Sherin and Katherine Linsenmeier) in Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 2011.
  • Beverly Smith
    City College of New York
    E-mail Author
    BEVERLY SMITH is an associate professor in the Department of Secondary Education at The City College of New York. NY. Her research focuses on the development and support of mathematics teachers in urban schools. Recent publications include Teaching Secondary Mathematics: Techniques and Enrichment Units (co-authored by Alfred Posamentier and Jay Stepelman) (Pearson, Inc. 2010) and “The evolution of mathematics teacher identity in an urban context” (co-authored by Mary Foote and Laura Gellert) in the Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 2011.
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