Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Buying school reform?

Buying School Reform

California School Reform .
Peter Schrag titles his column of December 14, 2005, in the Sacramento Bee, “Buying School reform: its time to make a deal.”
There are some useful insights in the column and some strange promotions.
Schrag calls California Secretary of Education Alan Bersin, ‘the smart and thoughtful former San Diego school superintendent.” Well he is the former superintendent. However readers should be reminded that he was driven out of San Diego by popular opposition to his high handed, arrogant imposition of programs without involving teachers. See earlier posts in this blog about Bersin’s past. Bersin is the exemplar of applying the business model in pubic education, having a leader of school systems who has never taught nor worked in the profession. Alan Bersin failed to lead the San Diego schools toward reform. The chief policy advisor to the governor does not know how to improve school achievement- it is obvious. He failed to do so. (See post of May 29,2005)
According to Schrag, one of Bersin’s goals is to, ‘create a simper teacher credentialing process that would reduce the emphasis on ed-school pedagogy programs and replace it with a single test, a three-year mentoring program and teaching performance assessments.” Let us assume that this is an accurate description.
This policy direction again shows the arrogance of making policy when you know little about the subject. This would be expected from Bersin, from Schwarzenegger advisor Margaret Fortune, and is consistent with the long advocacy of Peter Schrag.
This proposal indicates that the Schwarzenegger approach will now shift from Teacher bashing ( Prop. 74) to School of Education bashing. Like teacher bashing this direction leads no where. It is not based upon evidence nor well informed opinion, only prejudice and scape goating.
To become a teacher in California you need to have a B.A. in some field ( science, math, social science, liberal studies) and to complete a teacher preparation program. These programs require 32- 36 units ( one year) of study. Of the one year, half is in student teaching or an internship. Thus, the “ed-school pedagogy programs” equal one semester of work.
So, the proposal is that the problem with teacher preparation is one semester of work. There is no evidence to support this. Look at the studies of teacher preparation. See the previous post. Where does this proposal come from? The proposal comes from people who have not been teachers and have not been in these programs, but they are certain that they know what will improve teaching ( like in Prop. 74). It is not that persons outside of education can not have a good idea. However, there has to be some evidence that their ideas have merit and relevance. This particular proposal has no evidence supporting it.
The second part of the proposal is that this one semester of preparation be replaced with an exam. Well, there are no exams which measure these issues. And, person’s well versed in testing such as James Popham will explain that our current testing and measurement systems are not equipped to measure the items, the interests, the motivation, and the pedagogy that would replace the semester of study.
The third part of the proposal is a three year internship. At present we have a one-semester internship called student teaching under the direct supervision of a practicing teacher. We have had internships for years where the teacher works on her own with only slight supervision. California is presently eliminating these internships because they fail. And, they aggravate the problem of low income students having the least prepared teachers.
If it is time to make a deal, policy makers will have to start with reasonable information supported by evidence not tired old prejudices supporting by anecdotes. That is what we defeated in Prop. 74. Do you want to go through this again?
Duane Campbell
For a brief review of teacher preparation see:
http://edutopia.org/php/interview.php?id=Art_832&key=039
and see: http://www.edsource.org/edu_tea.cfm
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