A Dose of Refreshing Honesty, Words from an Ed Reformer

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The newly formed National Center on Alternative Certification held its first conference this month in San Antonio, with a keynote delivered by University of Wisconsin professor Martin Haberman. Haberman has devoted his career to helping urban school districts better identify teacher applicants who can succeed in difficult urban environments.

Download this speech. Haberman's honest, unfiltered remarks are a product of a man who has pounded his head against the wall for years and the man speaks some mighty truths. We hear Haberman delivered his blast that focused largely on the failings of traditional schools of education to an audience full of education faculty, attending the conference because alt cert programs are increasingly in the hands of ed schools. There must have been quite a lot of nervous wiggling in the seats.

A few choice quotes first on the "self serving myth" that if we throw enough money at schools of education that they will reform:

"Since WWII, the federal government has given over a billion dollars to schools and colleges of education to improve the teacher workforce with nothing to show for it. These grants go directly into the pockets of education faculty and university administrators of research who pursue lucrative careers getting even more federal grants which benefit nothing and no one but themselves. &Where there is zero accountability there is less than zero accomplished; that is, there are negative effects such as the exploitation of failing school districts and teachers' and childrens' time for the generation of misleading findings. Teacher educators do not offer programs based on data...We in teacher education quack about the need for making policy based on evidence but we act in ways which are not only baseless but frequently in contradiction to the evidence."

There's certainly plenty of fodder for Haberman's criticisms. News and Observer out of Raleigh reports this week that the state of North Carolina continues to grapple with its "chronic teacher shortage." The evidence for such a shortage is the fact that its schools of education are not producing all of the teachers it needs to hire. We're not sure if North Carolina would prefer to erect a great wall around its borders to avoid having to hire "God forbid" a teacher who comes from out of state but that seems to be the message of the commission it set up to deal with the purported shortage. The commission finds "gasp" that most of the positions in NC are filled by the aforementioned out-of- state teachers, former teachers returning to work after an absence and by mid-career teachers coming to education from other vocations.

North Carolina may or may not want to hear what Haberman has to say on this topic:

"The areas in which schools of education have received the most funding has been for the purpose of producing more math/science teachers and special education teachers. After half a century of literally shoveling hundreds of millions in to the university coffers math/science and special education teachers remain the areas of greatest need. How much evidence beyond half a century the involvement of several hundred colleges and the mountain of special programs in these high need areas will be needed before reasonable people realize there is sufficient evidence that traditional teacher education cannot produce the teachers needed in math/science and special education?"