Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Report Promotes Reforms to Teacher Education Programs but Ignores Past Research and Present Context
A recent Bellwether Education Partners’ report begins with the reasonable assumption that in order to improve teacher quality, the field must first improve teacher preparation program design. It then asserts that teacher-education programs are “blindly swinging from one popular reform to the next” and that decades of input- and outcome-based research has failed to improve teacher education.
This report, A New Agenda: Research to Build a Better Teacher Preparation Program, was reviewed by a group of scholars and practitioners who are members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform). The team was led by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, the Hawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools at Boston College, along with Stephani Burton, Molly Cummings Carney, Juan Gabriel Sánchez, and Andrew F. Miller.
The review is published by the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.
The report calls for a “rational” and “rigorous” research agenda for teacher education. Regrettably, the reviewers note, the report’s depiction of past research includes mischaracterizations and also omits a wide swath of relevant literature about teacher education.
The report also recommends “rapid cycle evaluations,” but it does not adequately explain what these evaluations would entail or how they would work to improve teacher preparation program design. Nor does it offer a research foundation for this approach.
The New Agenda report also fails to recognize the socio-political context of teacher education, wherein programs are often left scrambling to meet competing accountability expectations. It leaves practical questions unanswered, muddies the waters about promising research avenues, and ignores important bodies of literature in teacher education.
Ultimately, the reviewers conclude, the recommendations A New Agenda offers, though not necessarily bad, are overly general and offer little useful evidence-based guidance to either policymakers or institutions.