Instrumentalism and Teacher Education in the United States: An Analysis of Two National Reports

Aug. 20, 2008

Source: Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, Volume 14, Issue 4, August 2008 , pages 345 - 356
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Teacher education in the USA lives in a policy shadow world that is jumbled and unfocused because decision-makers do not see teacher education as a public good in and of itself. Rather, it is viewed as an instrument to achieve other, more important, policy goals. Consequently, teacher education policy tends to be parsed across fields and levels of instruction, compartmentalized, and often isolated; these circumstances thwart development of consistent and coherent policy on how teachers are prepared.

Two national commissions and teacher education policy

This paper examines whether two recent national reports, A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education and Tough Choices or Tough Times clarify or further confound teacher education policy directions.

Report of the commission on the future of higher education
the commission warns that the US higher education system is not without flaws. The authors contend that many college and university freshmen are not prepared for challenging coursework, literacy among college graduates has declined, and employers do not believe graduates possess necessary workforce needs (p. vii).

Report of the new commission on the skills of the American workforce
The Skills Commission's diagnosis is that the current education system was created for an earlier era and attempting to patch it is not a viable solution. The report concludes that by restructuring the education system from pre-school through postsecondary education these ills can be corrected without large new financial investments. As expected, this commission offers a plan to address the problems they identify. The most far reaching is to restructure secondary education.

The paper concludes with the caution that both reports continue the instrumental definition of teacher education. This situation will hinder development of comprehensive and more effective policy options.

Commission on the Future of Higher Education (2006) A test of leadership: Charting the future of US higher education US Department of Education , Washington, DC. National Center on. Education and the Economy (2006) Tough choices or tough times. John Wiley & Sons , New York.

Updated: Feb. 16, 2009