This comment was Initially posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog on December 15, 2014 (see here)
Jonathan Lovell, who has contributed several posts to this blog, has written to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about his intention to grade colleges of education by the test scores of the students of their graduates. The deadline for submitting comments is January 2. Send comments to: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/03/2014-28218/teacher-preparation-issues
Dear Secretary Duncan,
As a teacher educator for the past 35 years in the field of English Education–having spent the past 27 of those years in my present institution of San Jose State University–and as someone who has observed upwards of over 2500 middle and high school English classes over the course of my career, I can say without qualification that the proposed new regulations for assessing the quality of teacher preparation programs would be an unmitigated disaster.
Others on this site have spoken eloquently about the extremely serious effects, especially to public institutions like ours, of the costs of implementing these regulations, as well as the wrong-headedness of linking the assessment of teacher preparation programs to a VAM-like measure of student performance in the classes of recent graduates.
I’d like to address a related issue, but one that has been strangely left out of the public discussion to date. It’s the effect of these new regulations on what might be called the “climate” in which teaching as a profession is perceived.
As I’m sure you are aware, there has already been a 50% decline over the past five years in the number of applicants to teacher education programs in the state of California. While we’ve countered this trend in the English Education program here at San Jose State, we’ve only been able to do so by focusing relentlessly of what helps beginning teachers improve not only their instructional practices, but their sense of personal agency in their chosen profession.
The major player in this effort has been the San Jose Area Writing Project, which routinely selects exemplary K-12 teachers for an intensive four and one half week summer institute, then positions these teachers in significant roles in the preparation of new teachers.
Your proposed new regulations will be perceived as yet another iteration of all-too-familiar Bush-Obama refrain that “the whipping will continue until morale improves.” I believe it’s high time to turn from this thoroughly discredited approach to the improvement of teaching and teacher training, and to start looking more sensibly and honestly at practices that work.
The practices of the National Writing Project would be an excellent place to start.