"Meeting of doctors at the University of Paris" Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
As a graduate of a teacher-preparation program, I am always interested in hearing about new approaches to that process. Lately, there has been increasing demand for educators. I suspect that is partially from a lack of supply. Teaching is not seen as being a very attractive career these days. When I entered teaching four decades ago, it was viewed as a good solid career. The pay would not be great, but the benefits were good. It was particularly attractive to women who were mothers and could arrange their days and the year on a similar schedule to that of their children. It was a profession, but seen as less professional than a lawyer or doctor, although those three were once grouped together in rank. But that was a long time ago.
I have also seen more alternative preparation options being offered. The latest I have seen is a new graduate school and research lab announced by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. It will be a partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to conduct research on teacher and school leadership education. (MIT has no school of education.)
It is very research-based and it will be part of a new institute at MIT, called the MIT PK-12 Initiative. That aspect will provide support to STEM teachers.
It is also competency-based, which is not entirely new to higher education, but a new approach to teacher preparation. It will focus on competencies rather than on seat time.
Arthur Levine (former president of Teachers College, Columbia University and now head of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation) says that "Instead of focusing on courses and credits students need to take, we're going to focus on the skills and knowledge they need to have to enter the classroom." Most education schools have such low admission standards and are of such poor quality, Levine says, it would be easier to replace them than repair them. "They're old and dated."
The Woodrow Wilson Academy only will take in 25 students during 2017, its first year. Being selective seems to be important for success. A new report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) found that the more selective the program, the more likely that graduating teachers will remain in the profession and that students will be successful in the classroom. Students in the new Academy will have an opportunity to work with partner school districts in the greater Boston area.
Some comparisons have been made to Teach for America. That program is also selective. It trains new teachers for up to 10 weeks over the summer and then sends them into some of the poorest parts of the country. But TFA's results show that rather than training new teachers, it helps people figure out what they want to do with their future. And after Corps members complete their required two year commitment, fewer than a third stay in their positions beyond that period.
This Academy is at the graduate level and I feel that the real problems in teacher preparation - and the best place to make change - occur in undergraduate programs. I'm not aware at any radical departures in programs at that level.