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May 18, 2011

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No subtlety at all. The only thing I wonder about with this study is...

Most of the folks in alt cert programs will be in more challenging placements than those in traditional program. I've taught in those placements my whole career, but was in a traditional program. I wonder if folks in traditional program who are in challenging placements are less satisfied than their peers who are in traditional programs, with less difficult placements? I'm pretty sure I'm happier with my program, than my peers who work in low SES schools who did alt cert. This does not mean that my program was perfect, but it also means it wasn't "useless". I would say, as I did on Twitter, it was not useful enough. I will say that since I was in a teacher certification program, there has been a concerted effort in the Cal State system to create programs to address teaching in urban and rural schools, and the unique needs of those populations.

The responses to poll questions about preparation may say more about the teachers and their placements than their preparation programs. Teachers who enter through alt-cert programs may have higher standards, be placed in more dysfunctional schools, receive less support, or be less welcomed in their school than traditionally prepared teachers. The Public Agenda study you cite found that alt route teachers were much more likely than traditional route teachers to serve "the hardest-to-reach students," which certainly could affect how well prepared they felt. Interestingly, the alt-cert teachers were also far less likely to feel that their students are learning. Given that 94% of traditionally prepared teachers in high-needs schools felt their students are learning, it raises the question of whether their standards for learning are high enough and what their preparation programs did to set those standards.

I did alternative training: CUNY's Teacher Opportunity Program. You still do the coursework on pedagogy, child psych, etc. but start teaching after just a summer's practicum. There definitely needs to be training and certification and student teaching. Is Klein saying teachers should be rated on student test results, but not be tested themselves for minimum competency? I do think that no program simulates what teachers see in the classroom. I would say a $6000 CUNY Education just as good as a $40000 Teacher's College program.

Klein seemed to be arguing that state certification shouldn't be necessary at all. He was praising the idea that totally uncertified people, like Salman Khan from the Khan Academy, could theoretically be the best teachers. Of course, Khan gives lecture via online video, doesn't have to manage actual classrooms, discipline problems, etc.

Thanks, Gideon, these are good points that help to explain why alt-route teachers and traditionally-trained teachers might have different views. Still, I think it's disturbing that Klein presents it as settled fact that "most" teachers found their own training useless and support radically upending the certification process. This doesn't seem to be true - and I think it's important to build real support within the profession for reforms.

What "most" teachers believe is clearly debatable. But regardless of what teachers think, there is strong evidence to suggest that teacher preparation and certification needs to be dramatically improved: teacher prep programs have low standards for admissions, clinical experience is lacking, ed school faculty are divorced from practice, certification is not correlated with teacher effectiveness, etc. While Klein may have taken rhetorical liberties with what most teachers believe, I think his overall point is valid.

I also came into teaching under an accelerated program that didn't include practice teaching. The first time I lectured a class was as a full time teacher. That first year wasn't a complete disaster but there's no doubt in my mind that I would have been a better teacher and my students would have learned more that year had I been given a chance to practice and been mentored first.

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