The student teacher tsunami

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Arizona State University (ASU), one of the behemoths among teacher prep institutions, will soon have all of its undergraduate teacher candidates spending their last year, rather than just a semester, soaking up teaching techniques in K-12 classrooms. There's lots to recommend in this initiative, not the least of which are its explicit goal that graduates match the effectiveness of second-year teachers in their first year on the job. 

There's also the fact that feedback given to student teachers appears to be much improved over the usual hodge podge of feedback practiced by most teacher preparation programs

But there's a problem here with ASU's production numbers, especially at the elementary level. We estimate that there are only about 750 elementary classrooms in the 30 districts that surround Phoenix that can provide ASU's  annual production of 730 elementary student teachers with the two most most critical ingredients necessary for a good clinical experience: a mentor teacher who 1) is highly effective, and 2) can serve as a great mentor.  It's unlikely that those 750 great teachers will choose to have a student teacher in their classrooms year in and year out for one semester, much less a full year...meaning that ASU has no choice but to lower its standards and place its student teachers in classrooms which do not house a teacher who should be training the next generation of teachers. 

ASU is not alone. Our calculations show that teacher prep programs send more than twice as many elementary student teachers into schools as will be hired. We may be the only ones singing this tune, but it is time for institutions, districts and states to recognize that there are real and deleterious consequences to this overproduction, namely the overload of what we call the true "clinical capacity" of surrounding local schools.  

Julie Greenberg