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Published: Tuesday, 9/19/2006

Report blasts teacher training at U.S. colleges


Students training to become school teachers are ill-served by most American colleges and universities, according to a four-year national study released yesterday.

The report, Educating School Teachers, written by Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, said the vast majority of the nation's teachers are prepared in higher education programs with low admission and graduation standards, and the programs cling to an outdated vision of teacher education.

"Teacher education is the Dodge City of the education world," Mr. Levine said. "Like the fabled Wild West town, it is unruly and chaotic."

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education said the study's "tough love" findings were sobering, but disagreed with some of its major recommendations.

"In particular, we challenge the need to start from scratch to strengthen quality control and accountability," the Washington-based association said in a statement released yesterday.

"Further, we take exception to the elitism implicit in the proposal to expand programs at highly selective institutions, rather than to bolster those that prepare a majority of the nation's teacher candidates."

Among the report's findings were that 61 percent of teacher education alumni reported that they were not prepared well to cope with the realities of today's classrooms. It also said only one-third of principals surveyed said their teachers are very or moderately well-prepared.

Josue Cruz, dean of the college of education and human development at Bowling Green State University, disagreed.

"If you look at the data that has come out through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, it clearly tells us that we are doing a more than adequate job," he said.

BGSU, which has a large education program, holds an annual teacher job fair that last school year attracted 301 recruiters from 145 school districts from across the country.

Mr. Cruz also said some education programs have quite high standards for admission.

"As an example, you need a 3.2 GPA to be accepted to [BGSU's] early childhood education program," he said.

Thomas Switzer, dean of the college of education at the University of Toledo, also disagreed with portions of the report.

"Teacher education programs are better now than at any time they have been in history," he said.

"We have every confidence that our teachers from UT are well-prepared."

Mr. Switzer added: "It's very difficult to prepare people for the very difficult job of teaching and every time a report comes out that makes a blanket [statement], it hurts the field of teaching."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.

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