"Improving Teacher Quality: Ideological Perspectives and Policy Prescriptions." By William L. Bainbridge, Thomas J. Lasley, II, and Barnett Berry. The Educational Forum of Kappa Delta Pi. November 2002.

From the THE EDUCATIONAL FORUM of Kappa Delta Pi November 2002

Improving Teacher Quality:
Ideological Perspectives and Policy Prescriptions

Thomas J. Lasley, II, William L. Bainbridge, and Barnett Berry

Over the last decade it has become increasingly clear to policymakers and practitioners that standards-based reforms hinge on the quality of teachers, teaching, and the system by which a capable teacher force is developed and sustained across the nation. While consensus is growing that teachers are a significant determinant of student achievement, there is not much more than ephemeral agreements on what constitutes teaching quality and how to ensure that every student has access to a quality teacher (Diez 2002, Hess 2002). Much has been written of late of the ideological divide between those who view teaching and teachers in very different ways. On the one hand, there are those who view teaching as highly complex work and teachers as knowledgeable professionals who require formal, specialized preparation and considerable autonomy. On the other hand, there are those who view teaching as more routine work that reasonably smart people can perform and would do so more readily if misguided government or professional regulation would not limit their entry into the field.

The former view is best encapsulated by the research of Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University and the leadership she brought to the bi-partisan voice of the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future and its reform framework and initiatives based on a viable role for teacher education as well as state licensing and professional certification as a means to strengthen profession (Darling-Hammond 1997). The Commission's positions have been based on assumptions that there is a host of subject matter and technical knowledge that good teachers must have, especially in terms of helping all students (many increasingly diverse) reach much higher academic standards.

The latter view is best encapsulated by the reports of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and its President, Chester E. Finn, Jr., who is connected indirectly or directly with several initiatives structured to attack traditional teacher education practices, including the launch of the National Council on Teacher Quality and several publications, The Teacher Quality Bulletin (www.nctg.com) and Gadfly (www.edexcellence.net/gadfly), both representing attempts to cause policymakers to loosen, if not eliminate, extant requirements for those entering the field of education. The position of the Fordham Foundation is based on the assumption that teaching has (and will continue to have) a very weak knowledge base and what the field needs are more teachers who have strong content knowledge and enhanced verbal ability. Fordham's positions are based on assumptions that there is not a lot of specialized teaching knowledge that good teachers must have- just a liberal arts background, content knowledge, and "no record of misbehavior." For Fordham, if teacher learning needs to be done, then it can easily be done on-the-job. Fordham is clear on its position when Finn and his colleagues Kunstoroom and Finn 1999, 8) argue that "states should de-emphasize traditional teacher education and instead open the profession to a large pool of talented and well-educated candidates." Finn is not alone. An array of neoconservative reform groups and critics are making a compelling claim: non-certified teachers are performing as well or better than those professionals who have a degree in education, and there is very little if any need for preparing and investing in teaching. Some, such as Harvard's Caroline Hoxby (2001), suggest that the answer to securing better teachers is in competition and the market. Her prescription is deregulation. Let the market decide! Limit the prohibitions on who should teach! Frederick Hess (2002,26.) would concur by arguing that because "clear standards of professional competence do not exist [and we should] hesitate to prohibit…individuals from practicing a profession."

These critic messages are "hitting the mark" with politicians and educational policymakers. Even bastions of the status quo such as the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education are joining in the dialogue and tacitly consenting that "new" routes to certification are necessary, if not warranted.

Perhaps the most striking published divide over the merits of developing a teaching profession surfaced recently in the "case of Abell v. NCTAF," where the former, rather obscure think tank released an 80-page report discrediting the idea that licensed teachers are more effective than non-licensed teachers, and in doing so, debunking the research evidence that teacher professionalism proponents like Darling-Hammond has developed and used (Archer, 2002). Darling-Hammond's 50-page retort, and Abell's rejoinder heightened the tension (vis-à-vis) the politics of education reform in teacher preparation. Every public school student has a teacher and unlike other professions, teaching has substantial numbers of members in every community in the nation. State and local governments spend large proportions of their tax revenue on schooling, and on teachers' salaries. Thus the teaching profession is, and always will be, under a microscope in America, and ripe for ideological divide and debate. As Archer (2002 XX) asserts quite astutely:

Underlying much of the debate about teacher quality is a fundamental rift over what to make of the existing body of research on the topic. There's actually little disagreement about what's in the research, but experts from different camps quickly part ways when it comes to how the data should be interpreted and how policymakers should respond. In large measure, that is because while the past 30 years have seen a multitude of studies on the characteristics of effective teachers, what's lacking are large-scale, controlled studies that get at one of the most crucial questions: How should teachers be trained.

Strikingly, at a time when there is increasing evidence - albeit very little from traditional, controlled studies - that teachers need more professional knowledge in order to teach effectively, and that teacher education, licensing, and professional development standards need to be strengthened, policies continue to proliferate that actually lower standards for teachers and teaching . No better set of examples are found in the research of cognitive scientists like John Bransford and colleagues (2001) and their syntheses of the research on "how people learn" and the implications for teacher education and professional development.

At the same time, it is clear that it is our nation's most disadvantaged students who need the most prepared and able teachers. Indeed, these students, who tend to be poor and of color, will be the ones most likely to be harmed, for example, by teachers who possess only subject matter knowledge, or who have not been prepared to teach literacy, work with second language learners, use research-based tools and strategies, or have knowledge of content-based teaching methods in math and science and in other fields. Recent research reports - e.g., by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Assessment of Educational Progress - speak profoundly to the importance of teacher education and professional development in improving student achievement (National Reading Panel, 2000; Wenglinsky, 2000), with grand implications for strengthening teacher licensing and certification systems as well as overhauling the current dysfunctional system of how administrators recruit, hire, evaluate, and compensate teachers.

What is clear is that the route to professionalism and more extensive teacher education is paved with complexity in terms of implementation, expense in terms of new investments, and political and bureaucratic exigencies in terms of reallocation of dollars and personnel. The Holmes Group (now the Holmes Partnership) suggested that a fifth year was the answer. Others now argue for extensive clinical and field experiences that enable knowledgeable practitioners and university-based educators to collaborate as "communities of learners" to design more relevant and experienced-based programs (Oakes, Franke, Quartz and Rogus 2002); others are becoming involved in one of the teacher education reform movements such as the Project 30 Alliance or the National Network for Educational Renewal, which emphasize collaboration between education and arts and sciences; still others are instituting a system of quality assurance that brings together entities such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) (Wise and Leibbrand, 2001). These developments demand better utilization of our nation's best K-12 teachers - and would require a dramatic shift in resources inside of both schools and universities at the same time providing more fodder for greater investments, including substantial salary increases to what is a still underpaid profession. Most notably the vision of teacher professionalism framed by Darling-Hammond and the Commission point to the gross inequities in the distribution of quality teachers and teaching, and the dramatic need to direct new resources to poor students and those of color.

Nevertheless, it is too easy for those who oppose the growing movement to develop a true profession of teaching in America - with its high standards for entry, systematic use of a codified body of knowledge, and high status and salaries for its members - to argue that there is no definitive proof that teacher education and certification makes a difference. As Ferguson ( ) has noted:

In this game where nobody has the definitive evidence, the person who ends up with the burden of proof loses….If you are someone who wants to claim that professional development programs in general make a difference, you might be right, but you don't have the evidence, you lose.

Teaching has long been noted as semi-profession due to its truncated training and unenforced standards, an ill-defined body of knowledge, and less autonomy of practice (Etzioni, 1969). Teaching is developing a body of knowledge but it is all too limited and the means for spreading it are ill-defined and ephemeral. Teaching has not been self-regulating - and many are opposed to such a state of affairs (including, perhaps, many practicing teachers).

Some critics might suggest that for this reason alone efforts to professionalize teaching will not ultimately serve students. Teacher professionalism could be seen as self-serving, which is what many have seen lawyering and doctoring become in our society. Indeed, in public education many tensions exist between costs and quality; between public regulation and professional self-governance; between controls that ensure competence among practitioners and those that create self-interested monopolies. Given our dynamic economy and increasing diverse and complex democratic society in the context of our nation's compulsory public education system, teaching is more heavily affected by these cross-currents than most other occupations seeking to assume the mantle of professionalism.

While facts are available to support both the voices of professionalism as well as those of deregulation, what we see in this on-going struggle between these forces are rich examples of teacher shortages battling with multiple and sometimes competing efforts to raise teacher and student standards, while lay control competes with professional influence in defining what teachers will have the opportunity to learn, what they will be asked to do, who will pay for it, and who will decide. Reconciling all these tensions--which manifest themselves in different ways at different times for various occupations--is part of the challenge facing professionals as they seek to serve social goals and the needs of their clients as well as policy leaders as they seek to development the right kind of teacher development system that will allow them to do so.

With more and more school districts (e.g., Houston, Texas) conducting their own professional development and with some for-profits (e.g., Sylvan Teachers Institute) entering the teacher education realm, it is clear that the protectionist posturing of teacher educators may do more harm than good to achieving their defined goal: creating high quality university-based teacher education programs that prepare teachers for real world classrooms.

Frustrated with traditional preservice education, some school systems such as Houston, Texas, have begun to establish their own preparation programs. Indeed, the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future cited a number of long-standing problems with traditional teacher-education programs, including (1) inadequate time and the "confines" of a typical four-year undergraduate degree program, (2) fragmentation of theoretical coursework and real practice and the study of childrens' learning, (3) uninspired teaching methods, used by both teacher education and arts and sciences faculty (the latter being responsible for content knowledge of future teachers), (4) a superficial teacher education curriculum that only offers a "smattering" of essential teaching knowledge, with little opportunity to solve learning problems, and (5) preparing teachers for schools as they are (chalkboards) as opposed to where they should be (the internet). In comparison with teacher education in other countries, and the way U.S. universities prepare nurses, engineers, architects, and doctors, U.S. teacher education has historically been thin, uneven, and poorly financed. Although some schools of education provide high quality preparation, others are treated as "cash cows," bringing in revenues that are then allocated to the preparation of those who are entering more high status fields such medicine, business, law, and engineering.

Traditional teacher educators who prepare teachers tacitly know that some of what the reform critics claim is true even though some defenders of the "faith" argue against the harsh criticisms (see Berliner 2000). Some specific assumptions warrant some of the critics' argument - which we address directly below. In doing so we hope we can cut through some of the ideological divide which only diverts the attention of policymakers, practitioners, and the public from doing what matters most for teachers and students, and for teaching and learning so all students can not only higher academic standards, but also can participate more fully in our dynamic democracy and 21st century global economy.

Assumption 1:

The professional preparation curriculum in many higher education institutions lacks coherence and relevance. Many universities offer courses, not programs. As a result, students emerge with some Piaget and Bloom, but with little sense of how the pedagogic pieces all fit together and how to use them to enhance student learning once they are in the field. Indeed, one of the untested advantages of the alternatives could be their market focus and responsiveness. They are not "bound" in the same way traditional programs are because of intransigent faculty perspectives on what courses need to be included (typically theirs!) or on how faculty can reconcile the demands of publishing and teaching. Teacher education program development on many campuses continues to be political. Good professional development requires that teacher educators think beyond political interests to professional obligations.

Assumption 2:

The preparation experiences offered in most teacher education programs are so generic that many preservice teachers cannot deal with the myriad of specific problems they confront in real world schools. Urban administrators are justly frustrated by what occurs in most teacher education programs; they complain that so-called "prepared teachers" are often ill-prepared for the particularized problems of urban classrooms. New teachers are somewhat prepared for every classroom and that, regrettably, is not sufficient preparation for success in today's accountability climate. The critics' voices have attracted an audience because the teachers being prepared now who enter many rural and urban classrooms cannot clearly articulate how to help students learn in those contexts.

Assumption 3:

Many teacher educators are not aware of what constitutes scientifically based best practice and of how to critically reflect on the contexts of best practice. Methods courses are all too often taught (a) by persons with a warm heart but a real ignorance of how and when to use, for instance, direct instruction or (b) by persons so far removed from classrooms that their ideas lack verisimilitude. It is little wonder that pedagogical snake oil salespersons are so effective: the "prepared teachers" to whom they sell ideas lack the knowledge base necessary to be critical consumers of pedagogical "goods."

Assumption 4:

Teacher education in many institutions is too ideological. Too many teacher educators embrace personal views about how to teach that they seek to impose on preservice candidates. More importantly, they may allow that ideology to prevent them from seeing the limits and strengths of selected "alternative" pedagogical practices. The whole language or phonics debate is but one example of this phenomenon. At many campuses teachers are prepared in an either/or reading environment. The world of practice is more contextual and complicated than simple prescriptions would permit. Even more problematic is the fact that students may experience within a single program faculty with highly divergent views. Academic freedom grounds faculty conviction to teach, "What I want." But that same academic freedom mitigates program coherence and quality.

Assumption 5:

Some teacher education institutions should not be preparing teachers. Many have neither the faculty nor the resources to offer quality programs. Many others offer coursework that simply does not challenge preservice teachers (Berliner 2000). What they do offer is, if not "Mickey Mouse," at least insufficient for ensuring that graduates can foster and understand the dynamics of student achievement. Some teacher education reform efforts have favored large institutions (e.g., Holmes Group). But to be frank, effectiveness is not related to institutional size. Some of the worst preparation may be occurring in those research institutions where faculty agendas are to publish, not to teach others how to teach. Some of the best of what exists may be in those smaller liberal arts colleges where faculty-student dialogue and active reflective questioning about pedagogical ideas is a necessity and program coherence is imperative for faculty who are "forced" to work together. The opposite is also most certainly true.
Quite candidly, some teacher education institutions need to be shut down; the bad ones are hurting the good ones. Rest assured, though, that when closings are proposed or are even encouraged, some college presidents are going to take notice and respond - - education programs may not have institutional academic appeal, but they are, in many institutions, lucrative and low budget. Good teacher preparation and professional development is a lot of things, but at its best it is not inexpensive.

The question, of course, is what to do? At the current time the process of teacher education is emerging as something more political than academic. Nothing new. But, regrettably, political solutions are inevitably oriented toward winners and losers. And, given the current climate, the losers may be students who are in the crossfire of adult ideological wars. For that reason, we propose some specific approaches for three groups of key players.

For Teacher Educators (and all within higher education) we propose a substantial commitment to quality. First, schools and colleges of education should seek to admit students who evidence similar aptitudes and ability to those admitted to other professional schools. At the current time such a circumstance is not the case. Haycock (2001) reports data on combined SAT scores for students in several fields (Business, 875; Engineering, 999; Arts and Humanities, 920; and Education, 854). Though standardized testing such as PRAXIS is forcing some weak students out of teaching in some states, far too many still make it into classrooms, some through alternatives such as emergency credentialing. Haycock's message is one that few would dispute. Yet, we also know that the recent reports from ETS have revealed that the SAT and PRAXIS scores of secondary school teachers are far higher than those of elementary ones, and they have higher SAT scores than the average college student going into fields other than teaching (Gitomer, Latham, and Ziomek 1999). At the same time reports of successful school improvement efforts and greater student achievement gains are far more likely to be found in elementary schools, which are ironically staffed with lower scoring teachers. Nevertheless, though not all teachers need to be Einstein, all do need requisite basic and content skills if they are to be positioned to challenge students academically. The selectivity issue is one that critics frequently address. Frederick Hess (2002, 27) writes:

Teacher-preparation programs neither screens out nor weed out weak candidates. Even at elite schools, such as UCLA or the University of North Carolina, where admissions rates are about 5 percent for medical school and 25 percent for law school, the M.Ed. programs (which include those seeking postgraduate training for teacher certification) accept more than half of their applicants.

But, by introducing more screens to filter out less able candidate the system must also introduce more magnets to attract and retain the more able ones. One of the best examples can be found in North Carolina, where the state's Teaching Fellows Programs finds 400 academically abled candidates with the right dispositions for teaching, gives them a 4-year college scholarship and prepares them (with summer internships) in a more rigorous manner.

Second, good quality, coherent, well-aligned programs must be structured or sustained by institutions seeking to prepare teachers. This is where size does make a difference. Regrettably, coherent, aligned programs may be less likely to be evidenced when thousands of teachers, many of whom lack requisite intellectual dispositions, are being matriculated through programs. The emphasis must be on quality, not quantity. Empirically supporting the possible nexus between size and quality is problematic. Some evidence is available to provide partial support. For example, in Ohio's recent Title II Report Card study, several of the large institutions fell into the second or third tier in the professional knowledge and academic content areas. Those large institutions that were in the first tier (e.g., Ohio State), now run selective fifth year programs or have selective admissions standards.

Third, teacher education programs should be reorganized around specialty areas. Part of the difficulty with current preservice preparation is its generic nature - - teachers are prepared for undefined everywhere. They need to be prepared for a specific somewhere. At the University of Dayton specialized programs in Catholic education (Lalanne) and urban studies (the Urban Teacher Academy) have been created to prepare teachers for particularized settings. Most teacher education programs try to be all things for all settings. This specialty preparation practice is not unlike what occurs in other professions. Lawyers matriculate through law school as generalists but seek specialization in corporate or real estate law. Teachers need a similar focus on settings that they can study systematically during their preparation and then receive mentoring while they prepare for and begin classroom practice. Specialty preparation of teachers should foster enhanced program coherence and may reduce program size. Jeannie Oakes and her colleagues describe an alternative to this at University of California, Los Angeles. They offer a form of cohort experience for urban students. Oakes and her colleagues write (2002,231):

Once students enter a teacher education program, they need to become members of stable learning communities where they reflect together on the intersection of research and theory with teaching practices in urban schools. Our experience keeping our own students together in cohorts for 2 years suggests that these learning communities must engage students together in activities that bridge and cut across university courses, schools, and neighborhoods. In these learning communities, prospective teachers must bring all these perspectives to bear as they delve into the theories and practices that guide teaching, learning, and life in urban schools and communities. They must grapple with the failure of many instructional techniques to engage students of color, and they must learn to work collectively to move beyond this impasse.

The critics' voices are being heard because too many weak teacher education programs have graduated too many "weakest links." Those weakest links surface in programs where institutions have failed to provide adequate program coherence with complementary and focused field components or have lowered admission standards to ensure adequate student credit hour productivity. Such a circumstance is most likely to occur in institutions that either lack resources or are overextended because of size. Programs should be no larger than what the dynamics of curricular coherence and meaningful interactive engagement between faculty and preservice teachers will permit.

True, if teacher educators reduce the size (and even number) of extant programs, the consequences will be significant for both individual institutions and for America's supply of teachers to schools. The former will have financial repercussions; the latter will create or exacerbate a teacher shortage of "traditionally" prepared teachers. Both are likely necessary if real change in how America supplies and retains teachers is to occur. The hope for teacher education is not in well fashioned arguments defending extant professional education practices, rather the key for teacher educators is to foster real program quality through demanding curricula and aligned clinical and field experiences and to graduate students who know how to make a difference and how to critique their own behavior relative to the students' needs (Fraser 2002). Teachers who make a difference will be in demand and if their value-added is documented, states will find funding mechanisms to enhance the number of available qualified teachers.

For School Administrators we propose an emphasis on hiring practices that focus more on learning than teaching. This will require at least two different types of practices oriented toward identifying effective teachers. First, school administrators should put more emphasis on examining the products of the teachers they hire that clearly illustrate a teacher's capacity to foster and explain student learning. Those products might include videotapes of teaching performance or portfolios that show the type of learning occurring in the teacher's classroom during student teaching experiences and with a wide range of students. Putting such an emphasis on the products of learning and on preservice teachers' abilities to discuss learning outcomes will require teacher education institutions to be more thoughtful and perhaps even prescriptive in having preservice teachers demonstrate what their students are learning. All too often personnel interviews emphasize superficial dimensions of teaching (e.g., how the candidate "presents" his or her self) or certain scripted interview processes such as the Teacher Perceiver that are grounded on biases about how students learn and teachers should teach. Current administrators just do not have these kind of teaching and learning skills, begging for new approaches to their own preparation and professional development as well as highlighting the fallacy of some who would argue that the best way to ensure teacher quality is not through the enforcement of common licensing, professional development, and evaluation standards, but just relying on the judgment of today's principals and superintendents.

Second, school administrators should expect and demand more accountability from those institutions that are involved in traditional teacher preparation. Toward that end, higher education institutions must begin to "track" the performance of their teachers. Where are they teaching? How are the students in their respective teacher education graduates' classrooms performing? How long are they remaining in teaching? An institution should identify these and other factors and begin to post, along with Title II Report Card data, a review of how their graduates are doing so that administrators more fully know what they are "buying" when they employ a graduate from a particular institution. A fine line must be walked here. The struggle for all interested in quality education must be to think in broader terms than value-added student test score performance. As institutions track performance they must endeavor to look beyond test scores and toward a means of looking wholistically at student learning. In essence, given the real problems with an exclusive reliance on value-added assessment, a wide variety of accountability measures need to be embedded in understanding what occurs as a result of teacher education (see Ballou 2002). The burden here, though, is on higher education institutions to document the distinctiveness of what they are doing so that administrators know what they are getting. Efforts along these lines are already underway in Tennessee and Ohio.

Once "effective" teachers are identified and hired, they need to be monitored, mentored, and provided with effective professional development. Such support places added demands on already overburdened administrators. Yet, if teachers are the most important assets a school possesses for fostering student achievement, then some of the practices outlined in Figure 1 become absolutely essential.

For Policymakers we propose the elimination of emergency credentials and the expansion of only high quality alternative routes to the classroom in ways that mirror our expectation to have only high quality traditional teacher education and licensure. It is important to realize that America's poorest and most at-risk students are the ones potentially most compromised through the employment of teachers, who often teach out-of-field with an emergency credential. Affluent suburban school districts tend not to hire those with emergency credentials, or even teacher education graduates with weak general and specialized education backgrounds. The "haves" in the United States get good teachers with proper credentials or backgrounds (i.e., the certificated teachers with successful experience, either preservice or inservice, or the liberal arts graduates who can be "groomed" to a particular private school culture). The "have-nots" get a disproportionate number of emergency and "under-prepared teachers." The practice of using emergency certification occurs primarily with America's poor. Critics argue that the qualification to teach and the certification for teaching are not equivalent concepts. We agree. But those who are in relatively select districts hire those who exhibit some evidence or history of success (i.e., they typically possess both demonstrated qualifications and certification). Too many of America's poor children are being "taught" by teachers who are learning on the job or are teaching out-of-field. The No Child Left Behind legislation sets the stage for ensuring that a qualified teacher is in every classroom. But the distance between legislation and reality will likely continue to be great unless the unique problems of educating America's poor are addressed - - which is why specialty preparation programs are essential. Oakes, Franke, Quartz and Rogers (2002, 228-229) write:

They [prospective urban teachers] need to understand local urban cultures, the urban political economy, the bureaucratic structure of urban schools, and the community and social service support networks serving urban centers. They need skills to draw on and develop urban youth literacies across the academic content areas, promote college access for first-generation college goers, build social capital across schools and community organizations, and create alliances and engage in joint work with other reform-minded teachers.

Policymakers have an obligation to determine what skills a person must possess before he or she begins to teach. Poor children, like affluent children, deserve the best, not what is left of the rest. Several years ago an emergency credentialed teacher (i.e., a teacher with a four year degree but no formal pedagogical training) came to the University of Dayton seeking a teaching credential. Her goal was to "jump through the hoops" in order to increase her pay and receive a permanent appointment. In essence, she wanted to move off the substitute salary schedule and on to the higher one for regular teachers. One of the first courses she took was in diagnosing and remediating reading problems. Several weeks after the class began, she quipped, "I can't believe I've been allowed to teach without knowing what I've just learned." In her eyes, her lack of knowledge about how to teach reading compromised her students' (her poor students') education. Though some evidence exists occasionally surfaces (see Goldhaber and Brewer, 1999 ) to suggest that traditionally certificated and emergency credentialed teachers perform at similar levels, the research on this matter while incomplete, does suggest strongly that teachers need a great deal more than subject matter in order to be an effective teacher (Wilson, et.al., 2000; Darling-Hammond, Berry, and Thorenson, 2000). Rest assured that those in selective school districts will have choices to ensure that the teacher provided in a classroom (regardless of credential type) is the best qualified.

Alternative certification, on the other hand, does have a place on the teacher preparation landscape. Alternative approaches that ensure that teachers possess requisite content and pedagogical skills are appropriate and will likely create the competition that so many reform critics desire. Yet, those who enter through the alternative path must meet the same high standards we are expecting all teachers to meet. The Commission (citation needed) revealed that the most effective alternative entry programs provided "streamlined, (but) carefully constructed curriculum that integrates courses on learning theory, development, teaching methods, and subject matter knowledge with an intensively supervised internship prior to entry." These, like traditional programs, need to undertaken in partnership with nearby, but also diverse schools, especially given that we need to ensure that teachers can teach and reach all kinds of diverse learners. The one sure-fire way to create the kind of flexibility needed to recruit and prepare "mid-career switchers" is to pay them as well-paid interns (like a scholarship program) while they engage in a set of learning experiences under the tutelage of master teachers that is befitting their age and experience. We know that whether someone is a traditional 22-year new hire, fresh from college, or a seasoned 45-year old veteran who has experienced a fruitful career in another field, they both need the time to learn how to teach and assess standards-based lessons, teach literacy in the content area, and how to work with special needs students and their families.

If alternative routes are fully embraced and thoughtfully developed, then emergency or temporary credentials should be eliminated. A seven year old who does not know how to read deserves a teacher with some specific pedagogical skills, not just a bright teacher with a four-year degree and a commitment to social justice. The same goes for a 16 year high school, ninth grade student, already held back once, who needs to quickly learn how to master algebra and the basics of math simultaneously - and desperately needs a math teacher who knows her subject and also how to teach it.

Critic of teacher education have often observed the absurdity of teacher education by noting that if Einstein tried to teach he would be denied a classroom appointment because he lacked the appropriate credential. Well, if Einstein were asked to teach first graders who cannot read, he likely should be denied. High school AP physics would be, quite arguably, another issue - yet based on the stories of his life and teaching, Einstein would need a great deal of pedagogical help in working with diverse students he would encounter in today's public schools.

It is also important to note that just as traditional routes to teaching have problems, so, too, are alternatives fraught with complications. The Massachusetts Institute of New Teachers created a special Teach-for-America-type program for bright and willing students. The response was significant - - 1,700 applicants from 40 states and 6 countries. Applicants included lawyers, military personnel and a variety of other professionals. The result, Tell (2001,40) observes:

One-fifth of the new teachers, however, have left the classroom after one year, and many who have stayed are struggling with their first teaching assignments.... Fewer than half the teachers have stayed in the urban districts where they were hired, many leaving for more affluent school districts. Critics blame these problems on poor teacher preparation and inadequate support.... Although schools are supposed to have strong mentoring programs for the new teachers, some teachers said that they did not receive sufficient support from mentors and administrators....

The need exists for well-educated teachers who know how to foster student achievement. Some, as we noted earlier, such as Harvard's Caroline Hoxby (2001), suggest that the answer is in competition and the market Her prescription and that of many conservatives is deregulation. Let the market decide! Unfortunately, in Apple's (2001, 185) words: "the competitive market has not created much that is different from the traditional models…nor has it radically altered the relations of inequality that characterize schooling." The latter is an especially disturbing caution. Solutions sought should ameliorate not maintain the problems evidenced in many schools.

The Prescriptions

The No Child Left Behind legislation is the impetus for more universal change by all who are committed to preparing qualified teachers. What needs to occur?

Higher education institutions should focus on program quality, which will require more program specialization to ensure efficient use of resources and in some cases means that "selected" programs should close. The days of being able to go to a college or university and to be prepared to teach almost any thing anywhere should end. Though some teacher shortages may result and the for-profit alternative organizations may expand, the situation would be no worse than it is today with the extensive use of emergency credentials, and at least those being prepared could be change agents for learning that all schools want and need. With a critical mass of such change agents, real change might occur in America's schools. Where shortages emerge, quality alternative routes (not emergency credentialing procedures) should be instituted.

School administrators should demand more information about what graduates of traditional (and alternative) programs can do to help students learn and to assess what they have learned - - a kind heart and teaching credential are insufficient. As we suggested earlier, the conservative critics and market theorists are quite correct that certification to teach and the qualification to teach are not equivalent. Administrators need qualified, competent teachers in every classroom. Portfolios are used by many prospective teachers to illustrate the products of student learning. They are one step. But with only 14 states explicitly requiring teachers to demonstrate competence in assessment as a prerequisite for securing a teacher license (Olson, 2002), far too few prospective teachers can and do demonstrate how to assess what their students already know and how to select and develop assessment strategies for planned learning tasks.

Policymakers must make certain that every student, rich or poor, has access to a teacher who is not only well educated but also appropriately skilled in terms of content and pedagogy for the assignment he or she will assume. Alternative routes may help relieve the shortages and may also be focused on particular problem (urban and rural) contexts. Those routes, though, should still ensure that teachers possess certain requisite content and pedagogical skills BEFORE they begin teaching. Teachers who are learning on the job are not doing their job. Teachers who are ill- prepared are equally problematic.

These goals as proffered sound so simple. They remain, regrettably, so difficult to achieve! And, as a result, far too many students have teachers who are under-prepared for the classroom realities that they will confront.

America has neither bad nor great schools uniformly. It has relatively good schools (see Collins, 2001). And, therein lies the problem. Few are willing to really make the changes necessary to ensure the quality that students need and must be in place to make America's school great learning environments. Current policies on preparing and licensing teachers are still too weak, uneven and often embedded in political realities or ideological turf wars. Teachers are the most important assets a school has for fostering student academic growth. As a result, policies must be put in place that establish a base level of content and pedagogical skill for every teacher, whether through traditional or alternative routes to the classroom.

Thomas J. Lasley, II is Dean, School of Education and Allied Professions, University of Dayton. William L. Bainbridge is president of SchoolMatch, a Columbus, OH, based school research and consulting firm and Distinguished Professor of Research at the University of Dayton. Early in their careers, both were associated with a state education agency. Barnett Berry is the Executive Director of the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality at the University of North Carolina, and serves a consultant to a very wide range of foundations, commissions, advocacy groups, and research centers dedicated to improving public schooling in America.


Apple, M.W. 2001. Markets, standards, teaching and teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(3), 182-186.


Ballou, D. 2002. Sizing up test scores. Education Next, 2(2) 10-15.

Berliner, D.C. 2000. A personal response to those who bash teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education 51(5), 358-371.


Collins, J. 2001. Good to great. New York: HarperCollins.

Darling-Hammond, L. 1999. Doing what matters most: Investing in quality teaching. Paper prepared for the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, Kutztown, PA. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No ED 415183).

Darling-Hammond, L., B. Berry & A. Thoreson. 2002. Does teacher licensure matter? Evaluating the evidence. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

Diez, M. 2002. The certification connection. Education Next 2(1), 8-15.



Fraser, J. 2002. A tenuous hold. Education Next. 2(1), 16-21.

Gitomer, D. and A.S. Latham, R. Ziomek. 1999. The academic quality of prospective teachers: The impact of admissions and licensure testing. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Goldhaber, D.D. and D. J. Brewer. 1999. Teacher licensing and student achievement. In Kanstoroom, M. and C.E. Finn, Jr., (eds). Better teachers, better schools (pp.83-102). Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

Haycock, K. November 16, 2001. Teachers Matter Hugely. Paper presented to the Governor's Commisson on Teaching Success, Columbus, Ohio.

Hess, F. 2002. Break the link. Education Next 2(1), 22-28.

Hoxby, C. 2001. Changing the profession. Education Next 1(1), 57-64.

Kanstoroom, M. and C.E. Finn, Jr. Better teachers, better schools. Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to read. 2000. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Oakes, J. and M. L. Franke, K.H. Quartz, and J. Rogers. 2002. Research for high quality teaching: Defining it, developing it, assessing it. Journal of Teacher Education 53(3), 228-234.

Olsen, L. May 22, 2002. Up close and personal. Education Week 21(37), 28-33.

Tell, 2001.

Wenglinsky, H. 2002. Testing the teachers: Different settings, different results. Princeton, NJ: Education and Testing Service.


Wise and Leibbrand, 2001.