Based on the number of studies and surveys sent to me, there appears to be nothing more studied today than education. (Although it seems sometimes that the more we study in education, the less we know.)
But I thought this Thomas B. Fordham Institute survey looked at one area that hasn’t gotten enough attention — what’s happening in our colleges of education.
In its report, “Cracks in the Ivory Tower,” the Fordham Institute, an education think tank in Washington, suggests that the teachers of teachers are disconnected from the real-world challenges and prefer a more aesthetic approach to teacher education.
In a statement, Fordham Institute President Chester E. Finn, Jr., said. “Too many education professors still cling to outmoded, romantic views of what education is about and what teachers need. America has grown very practical and demanding about its primary‐secondary education system. Unfortunately, most of the professoriate hasn’t kept pace.”
More than 80 percent of education professors in the study think it’s “absolutely essential” that teachers be lifelong learners, but far fewer believe it’s as necessary for teachers to understand how to work with state standards, tests, and accountability systems (24 percent), maintain discipline and order in the classroom (37 percent), or work in high‐need schools (39 percent).
The survey of 738 teacher‐educators at four-year colleges and universities covered the gamut of hot button topics; teacher preparation and school reform, tenure, academic standards, measures of accountability, and alternative programs for preparing and certifying teachers.
According to the survey:
Education professors are far likelier to believe that the proper role of a teacher is to be a “facilitator of learning” (84 percent) not a “conveyor of knowledge” (11 percent). When asked to choose between two competing philosophies of teacher education, 68 percent believe they should be preparing tomorrow’s class instructors to be “change agents” versus 26 percent who believe they should prepare teachers to “work effectively within the realities of today’s public schools.”
While 83 percent of professors believe it’s “absolutely essential” to teach 21st century skills, 36 percent say that about teaching math facts and 44 percent about teaching phonics in the younger grades.
The institute saw hopeful changes in some of the responses since 1997 when a similar survey was done. For instance, the percentage of professors who believe it’s more important for students to struggle with questions than end up with the right answer has dropped from 86 to 66 percent since 1997. And only 37 percent of today’s professors believe that early use of calculators will improve children’s problem‐solving skills, a 20 percent drop.
Among other findings:
Professors of education show some support for financial incentives for teachers who work in tough neighborhoods with challenging schools (83 percent favor this).
Yet, by 65 to 30 percent, they resist tying teacher pay to student test scores. And they’re evenly split on whether it’s a good idea to measure teacher effectiveness by the academic gains that teachers produce in their pupils.
Most education professors (66 percent) believe that the present teacher preparation system has many good qualities but “needs many changes.” The study also identifies two factions that feel quite strongly: Twelve percent of professors—dubbed “Reformers” —are particularly unhappy with the current teacher education system and are strong advocates for reform while another 13 percent—dubbed “Defenders” — are mostly content with teacher education programs and resistant to reform.
A full 63 percent of education professors think programs like Teach For America are generally a good idea. Just 33 percent however, think it’s a good idea to recruit school leaders based on their success in other fields, and just 17 percent support teacher prep programs run by school districts or charter organizations.
Seventy‐eight percent of education professors support the idea of a core curriculum with specific knowledge and skill standards spelled out for each grade. Forty‐nine percent believe state governments should adopt the same set of standards and give the same tests in math, science, and reading nationwide.