Ed school attitudes about the teaching profession

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It's been widely observed that what teacher candidates learn in education schools bears little connection to what actual teachers need to be effective in the classroom. Following up on its 1997 survey of ed school professors, the Fordham Institute commissioned an update to see if and how views have changed in the past dozen or so years. While there is still a startling disconnect between the values ed school professors hold and the policies pursued by districts and states, there are also some glimmers of hope.

At the very least, the majority of the 700 ed school professors surveyed admit that education is in dire need of reform. Most ed school professors agree that tenure is awarded too easily and that it is too difficult to dismiss ineffective teachers. On other issues such as whether it's a good idea to measure teacher effectiveness by student academic gains, professors are evenly split. Interestingly, the professors who were most likely to acknowledge the system's flaws were either black or Hispanic and had recently taught in K-12 settings.

Teacher educators continue their ongoing resistance to basic skills: while 83 percent of respondents view teaching 21st century skills as essential, only 36 percent believe that math facts need to be taught and only 44 percent support phonics instruction.

Ed school professors also appear to be remarkably immune to customer demand, given that only about a third believe classroom management skills should be a key focus of their instruction. You'd think they might have changed their tune after all years of surveys in which new teachers routinely lament their own lack of classroom management skills--not to mention the bestseller success of Doug Lemov's book Teach Like a Champion.

A full 63 percent of education professors think programs like Teach For America are generally a good idea (perhaps because TFA corps members have to take classes at an ed school to get certified), but only 17 percent support teacher prep programs run by school districts or charter organizations.

As ed schools continue to be in the la-la land of good intentions and child-centered progressivist thinking, outside pressure continues to mount. And NCTQ is proud to be out there leading the charge. In about a month, NCTQ is releasing a study of Illinois' teacher preparation programs, and next year we're partnering with US News and World Report to publish ratings of all of the nation's ed schools. Stay tuned for more.