In a brief released today, Independent Teacher Education Programs: Apocryphal Claims, Illusory Evidence, Ken Zeichner of the University of Washington reviews what is known about the quality of five of the most prominent independent teacher education programs in the U.S., including their impact on teacher quality and student learning. Zeichner is the Boeing Professor of Teacher Education at UW and is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Education.
The five independent programs examined in Zeichner’s brief are: The Relay Graduate School of Education (Relay), Match Teacher Residency (MTR), High Tech High’s Internship, iTeach, and TEACH-NOW. His analysis demonstrates that claims regarding the success of such programs are not substantiated by peer-reviewed research and program evaluations.
“The promotion and expansion of independent teacher preparation programs rests not on evidence, but largely on ideology,” says Professor Zeichner. “The lack of credible evidence supporting claims of success is particularly problematic given the current emphasis on evidence-based policy and practice in federal policy and professional standards.”
Zeichner’s analysis also concludes that two of the programs, MTR and Relay, prepare teachers to use highly controlling pedagogical and classroom management techniques that are primarily used in schools serving students of color whose communities are severely impacted by poverty. In doing so, they contribute to the inequitable distribution of professionally prepared teachers and to the stratification of schools according to the social class and racial composition of the student body.
“The teaching and management practices learned by the teachers in these two independent programs are based on a restricted definition of teaching and learning and would not be acceptable in more economically advantaged communities,” explains Zeichner. “Students in more economically advantaged areas have greater access to professionally trained teachers, less punitive and controlling management practices and broader and richer curricula and teaching practices.”
At a time when we are working to educate an increasingly diverse student body, this shift away from preparing teachers with deep professional knowledge may negatively impact teacher quality and student learning.