Teacher preparation: Defending what can't be defended?

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Nobody has ever claimed it would be easy to close down ed schools, no matter how much evidence there is that they're consistently churning out bad teachers. The feisty new president at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), Allen Sessoms, is finding out how hard it is just to revamp his education school, no matter that it fails to graduate most of its aspiring teachers.

The UDC undergraduate education department has no particular problem attracting wannabe teachers, posting 380 students last year, but only 8 percent of those students actually manage to graduate within six years. Why? Because the vast majority of them cannot pass a basic 3 Rs skills test.

One would think defenders of such a record would be in short supply. But no, many of the department's faculty members are decrying the planned closure. One professor explained away the incredible failure rate with this choice quote: "We're not math educators." If the ed school accepts students with no math skills, and is then unwilling to remediate, just whose job is it?

Sessom's opinion on the school's graduation statistic -- "it's scary" -- applies on many fronts, including the fact that the UDC program has met all the standards for NCATE accreditation.