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* Leadership and Change Needed - Not Standing Ground

Posted By: Liz Hinde on July 10, 2013
This commentary brings up some interesting points, although I find that there are some overgeneralizations and perhaps a basic misunderstanding about the goals and nature of teacher preparation. The author’s experience in Philadelphia does not reflect teacher education programs everywhere. Although I am sure other teacher education programs have similar issues as the author’s, the experiences the author seems to be having in Philadelphia does not generalize to all cities and programs across the country. Partnerships are not “an elusive goal” as the author states. In fact, in a city as big as Philadelphia, Phoenix, we at Arizona State have managed to establish solid and mutually beneficial partnerships with schools in Phoenix and surrounding cities. Our students, most of whom spend a year in student teaching placements in a residency model, are placed with mentor teachers who have been vetted and receive special training. Both the school principals and our faculty work together in selecting and training mentor teachers. Although we have started the residency model on a very large scale (among the largest in the nation – approximately 700/students per year are placed) just a few years ago, we have changed, and we are growing because of our partnerships with schools. We did not wait for permission or spend any more time focusing on the obstacles that were keeping us from changing. We changed at a massive level. Now, school principals and district leaders from all over the Phoenix area (and some from outside of the state) are requesting our graduates come to their schools and that we establish our teacher training programs in their schools. So, the author’s experience in Philadelphia does not ring true everywhere. If we were able to change the way we prepare teachers at Arizona State University, the country’s largest university, it can be done anywhere.

The author’s assertion that “teacher educators have had to make do as school districts insist that they comply with rules and practices over which they have little influence” is an example of the victim mentality that holds teacher preparation programs back. Our goal as teacher educators should be to create excellent teachers who are leaders. An essential point of this process is to focus teacher preparation on teaching as a profession that serves democratic purposes (as scholars from Walter Parker and John Dewey to Linda Darling-Hammond have been saying all along). If anything needs changing, it is the focus of our efforts and not the victimization of teacher education as this article purports.

The author also mentions that we fail because we lack common understanding of quality teaching, which directly contradicts the work of many scholars, including Darling-Hammond who is cited 3 or 4 times throughout the article. We do have a common understanding, as is revealed in such assessments and programs as TAP, EdTPA, PACT, NBPTS, NCATE, InTASC, and all the content-area standards and assessments available through content organizations (NCSS, NCTE, NCTM, etc.). There is plenty of literature on quality teaching, and excellent teacher preparation programs are constantly working toward preparing teachers who possess the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that the literature tells us that teachers need.

The author’s final point that we don’t need more research money, and we need more “collaboration, cooperation and good will” is a naïve answer to a complicated problem. Of course we need all that, but what we are sorely lacking is leadership and courage to change and do the things we know need to be done. NCTQ and the alternative routes to certification are inevitable results of the lack of courage of leaders to change the teacher education programs that need changing. Thankfully, there are teacher education programs emerging, and many that already exist, that have that type of leadership.
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 Leadership and Change Needed - Not Standing Ground by Liz Hinde on July 10, 2013  * 
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