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Will There Be Teachers' Colleges in the Future?


Q. Back in the day, teachers went to two-year "Normal Schools" between high school and their teaching jobs. They were more like trade schools than colleges. A high school education was thought to be a satisfactory background for teaching, with an additional two years to work in the specific tasks of teaching. Might it be smart to head back in that direction, maybe on the elementary level?


That's a possibility, although the reason our nation switched teacher education from two years to four years decades ago was to try to professionalize teaching, not only to improve its methods but also to justify higher salaries for teachers.


A more common suggestion is to do away with teachers' colleges altogether. If you want to become a teacher, you go to college and major in a content area such as mathematics, science, English or psychology. After that, you get a job with a school district and receive a year or two of on-the-job training, being mentored and trained intensively as you work.


Still another model, promoted by former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, is to make a teachers' college more like medical school. Just as med schools operate clinics in which to train their student doctors, Paige suggested that education departments in colleges and universities partner on a charter school and use it to train the next generation of teachers. That way, they get more practical, real-world experience, rather than sitting in a classroom studying "ivory tower" theories.


Nationally, there's a controversy over the value of teachers' colleges in general and the education major in particular. It appears that there's an oversupply of teachers with only so-so preparation and quality, for various reasons. Less than 40% of education majors who graduate from college find jobs in teaching. In most states, the number of new education graduates outstrips the number of job openings available in that state's schools.


Also, in most universities with a college of education, it is typical to graduate more students than it admitted as freshmen. It's the opposite with most other disciplines within the academy.


The reason is the virtually open-door admission policies and requirements of teachers' colleges. Those students who are in danger of failing elsewhere can switch majors to Education to find a place with low enough standards for them to get passing grades.


If you have the audacity to suggest that maybe admissions/graduation requirements to the Ed College should be tightened, you get the incredulous "we can't do that because it's a tremendous cash cow for the university" argument. Education typically costs a great deal less money to run as a college major than it takes in from student tuition. So it produces a net gain, financially, that can subsidize overages in other areas of university spending. That's a financial incentive for schools to keep things the way they are.


So not only is there an oversupply of education graduates, their schooling is devalued in the eyes of many employers and taxpayers because of their relatively "easy" course requirements, compared to majors in the hard sciences and other fields.



Homework: See the website of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education:


By Susan Darst Williams Teachers 11 2008


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