Teacher Education and the American Future

Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2): 35-47. (January/February 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

For teacher education, this is perhaps the best of times and the worst of times. It may be the best of times because so much hard work has been done by many teacher educators over the past two decades to develop more successful program models and because voters have just elected a president of the United States who has a strong commitment to the improvement of teaching. It may be the worst of times because there are so many forces in the environment that conspire to undermine these efforts.

In this article, the author discusses the U.S. context for teacher education, the power of teacher preparation for transforming teaching and learning, and the current challenges for this enterprise in the United States.

Implications for Teaching Quality and Equity

The bottom line is that we need highly effective, adequately resourced models of preparation for all teachers, without exception. Accreditation should set a clear goal of leveraging improvements based on the practices of successful models and of ending the practice of poor preparation by so-called traditional and alternative programs alike. Teaching as a profession will not move forward until we settle on some fundamentals about what teachers should have the opportunity to learn and how they should learn it—and until we reshape or create programs, so that they can do it well.

The Challenges for Teacher Education

The author believes the central issue that teacher education must confront is how to foster learning about and from practice in practice. No amount of coursework can, by itself, counteract the powerful experiential lessons that shape what teachers actually do.

It will be critical for all universities to model what some have pioneered by creating relationships with schools that are working explicitly on a quality and equity agenda. Some universities have done this by developing new schools designed to provide more equitable access to high-quality curriculum for diverse learners; others have created partnerships in schools where faculty are actively confronting issues of tracking while transforming curriculum and teaching.

Creating high-quality professional development schools that construct state-of-the art practice in communities where students are typically underserved is critical to transforming teaching.

The author concludes that teacher education system in the United States the possibility of dramatically reforming teacher education and development. With a president who has promised investments in teacher education improvements and beginning teacher mentoring, including supports for professional accreditation and teacher performance assessments, we have an opportunity to make substantial headway on this important agenda.

To take advantage of this potentially fleeting opportunity, however, schools of education must hold themselves to a higher standard. Teacher educators must be prepared to create partnerships with schools in their communities. This will mean embracing a new form of professional accountability that leverages universally strong practice in all programs that prepare teachers. It is perhaps the last best chance for dramatically improving educational opportunity in the United States of America.

Updated: Mar. 14, 2010