Teacher Education as a Professional Continuum
Given the critical need for well-qualified teachers of science and mathematics, it is sobering to consider current statistics regarding the teaching profession in the United States. Nearly 50 percent of all students who currently enter preservice programs in college and universities do not pursue teaching as a career. Of those who do become certified as teachers and then enter the profession, nearly 30 percent leave within the first five years of practice (Darling-Hammond and Berry, 1998; Henderson, 2000). The problems are exacerbated for prospective and beginning teachers of science and mathematics (U.S. Department of Education, 1997a).
What are some of the implications of these statistics? To varying degrees, some states across the country are experiencing a reduction in the number of “in field” or experienced teachers available for or hired to work in their larger school districts. In California alone, legislatively mandated reductions in class sizes, expectations that all students will study more science and mathematics, the high attrition rate of science and mathematics teachers, and the inability to hire sufficient numbers of certified teachers in these disciplines has resulted in a dire situation: approximately one-third of children in that state are being taught by teachers who either are unqualified to teach science or mathematics or are in their first or second year of teaching. Indeed, in California, the probability that a student who attends school in a low socioeconomic district will be taught by a less-than-qualified teacher can be five times higher than for students in more affluent districts in that state (Shields et al., 19991). Across the country there also is
This report also is available on-line at <http://www.cftl.org>.
… in addition to teacher preparation, we have the continuing challenge of professional development, where school districts update the knowledge, skills, and strategies that teachers bring into the classroom. No professional is equipped to practice for all time, i.e., be an inexhaustible “vein of gold.” We cannot expect world-class student learning of mathematics and science if U.S. teachers lack the confidence, enthusiasm, and knowledge to deliver world-class instruction.
National Science Board, 1999, page 7
a higher probability that students in districts with large populations of underrepresented minorities or with high levels of poverty will be taught by unqualified or inexperienced teachers. Yet, in some states and districts, there are more qualified applicants for teaching positions in science and mathematics than there are jobs. As a result of these statistics and demographic research, some have claimed that, at least for now, the issue of teacher shortages is actually a problem of inequities in distribution, recruitment, and incentives (e.g., Darling-Hammond and Berry, 1998). Clearly, a method for addressing and ameliorating these various challenges, such as a coordinated and integrated system for locating and placing qualified teachers in school districts across the country, is lacking at the national level.
Why does this disjointed—and very worrisome—situation exist? The earlier part of this report documented some of the challenges that prospective teachers face. Those who then enter and decide to remain in the profession face opportunities for professional development that are far from comprehensive or integrated. Indeed, they often must endure professional development “opportunities” that are disjointed, repetitive from year to year, unconnected to their practice in the classroom, and ephemeral. Professional development days sponsored by districts are typically one-time workshops conducted by outside facilitators who may know little about those teachers’ educational needs or the problems they face in teaching (e.g., Loucks-Horsley and Matsumoto, 1999). Some states have stopped providing funds for professional development while others are demanding that teachers engage in even more professional development. In the latter case, states may or may not provide financial assistance for local districts to carry out their mandates.
SYSTEMIC APPROACHES TO IMPROVING TEACHER EDUCATION
Institutions of Higher Education: One Key
In Tomorrow’s Schools of Education, the Holmes Group (1995) charged that “education students for too long have been learning too little of the right things in the wrong places at the wrong time.” Their report challenged colleges of education to raise their standards and to make important changes in their curriculum, faculty, location of their work, and in their student body. Similarly, the Holmes Group exhorted, “The Universities that develop education knowledge, influence education policy, and prepare teachers and other leaders for our nation’s schools and education schools must overcome ‘business as usual’ to meet the challenge of these truly unusual times in education. The indisputable link between the quality of elementary and secondary schools and the quality of the education schools must be acknowledged—and we must respond.”
Other high-level reports have echoed the conclusions of this and the other Holmes Group reports (1986, 1990). In 1996, an advisory committee to the National Science Foundation recommended that to improve the preparation of teachers and principals, schools of education should (1) build bridges to other departments, (2) look for ways to reinforce and integrate learning, rather than maintaining artificial barriers between courses in content and pedagogy, and (3) develop partnerships and collaborations with colleagues in education, in the K-12 sector, and in the business world (NSF, 1996). In 1999, the American Council on Education
While school reform alone cannot eliminate all the causes of educational failure in our society, a more responsive educational system is a vital step in breaking the cycle of failure that entraps too many of our students and teachers. Schools and universities must be willing to reexamine everything: the way they utilize personnel, space, money, time, research, and technology. They must creatively build different kinds of schools and preparation programs that bridge the gap between what is learned and what people need to understand and be able to do in order to be productive in the future.
Richardson, 1994, page 1
urged the presidents and chancellors of the nation’s colleges and universities with education programs either to elevate the status of these programs so that the entire institution is concerned about their quality or eliminate them.
SOME EXEMPLARY APPROACHES TO TEACHER EDUCATION
Even as new recommendations for the education of teachers were emerging in the 1990s, teacher educators in this country already were exploring ways to improve their programs. The need for career-long professional development, combined with the need to restructure schools and teacher preparation programs, created a unique opportunity for collaborative approaches to systemic reform, where the many components of reform are addressed and their interdependencies and inter-relationships are recognized (Goodlad, 1990, 1994; Holmes Group 1986, 1990, 1995). Many individual school districts and states have now recognized the critical connection between ongoing professional development during the induction and post-induction years of teaching. They also have begun to institute a variety of programs that professionally nurture and sustain beginning teachers during the first years of their careers beyond the induction period. Descriptions of several of these programs are provided in Appendix D.
As noted throughout this report, there have been numerous calls for institutions of higher education to improve teacher education through enhanced communication among science and mathematics educators, scientists, and mathematicians. These calls for reform also have urged the creation of formal connections between institutions of higher education and public schools (e.g., Holmes Group, 1986; Goodlad, 1994). In keeping with this more systemic approach, a movement has been emerging slowly since the 1980s that seeks to improve simultaneously the education of both prospective and practicing teachers through partnerships between schools and postsecondary institutions.
Various labels have been applied to this movement and to the products that have emerged. These labels include “professional development schools,” “clinical schools,” “professional practice schools,” “school-university partnerships,” and “partnership schools” (Whitford and Metcalf-Turner, 1999). Professional Development School (PDS), the descriptor selected by the Holmes Group (1986), still predominates in the educational literature. It is the term this report will use to denote any intentional collaboration between a college or university and one or more
K-12 schools for teacher preparation and school renewal.
Such collaborative arrangements adhere to several important principles:
They offer learning programs for diverse populations of students;
They ground preparation for novice teachers in classroom practice;
They articulate and establish consensus about professional goals and responsibilities for experienced educators; and
Many conduct research that adds to educators’ knowledge about how to make schools more effective and productive (Holmes Group, 1990).
These collaborative movements were established on the premise that a student’s education should be viewed as an integrated continuum from preschool through university. When viewed in this light, significant improvement in any one part of the educational system in isolation can be seen as unlikely to have much effect on improving education in general unless concomitant improvements are made throughout the system. Thus, improvement in K-12 schools cannot be expected until the preparation of teachers and administrators improves at the university level. In turn, even the best teachers and administrators cannot be sustained professionally until the system becomes more effective in providing high-quality professional development and empowering those who have primary responsibility for educating children. Simultaneous and coordinated feedback and renewal are essential components of this movement (Goodlad, 1994).
An effective PDS, therefore, is much more than a collection of people in a building. “It entails an attitude, a perspective, a professional predisposition that releases educators to share what they know and to improve the teaching of students and the preparation of future educators” (Richardson, 1994). Participation in a PDS collaboration involves willingness by all of the partners to question old habits and new trends in education and to suggest different ways of reaching current and future goals. Professional Development Schools have become laboratories for observation, experimentation, and extended practice. A PDS can be a site where teachers, students, and university faculty create new knowledge and experiment with, evaluate, and revise practices. Ultimately, the PDS concept embodies a commitment to do what is necessary to ensure that all students (K-16) become engaged learners.
Like student learning, teacher education also is an extremely complex process. PDS collaborations encourage educators to restructure teacher education systemically rather than through a
series of disjointed, incremental reforms. For example, a PDS offers to preservice and novice teachers systematic field experiences within realistically complex learning environments. By integrating content and pedagogy in an atmosphere of relevance for their studies, these experiences become a unifying feature of education for student teachers.
Currently, there are over 600 reported examples of partnerships between universities and school districts involving the PDS approach to educational reform (Abdal-Haqq, 1998).2 Many more such programs may exist that are unreported or that employ some, but not all, of the principles of the PDS movement.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PDS AND SIMILAR COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS IN IMPROVING STUDENT LEARNING
Although the PDS movement is still relatively young, the research literature on Professional Development Schools is beginning to document the impact of high quality, focused professional development experiences for teachers on schools and students. Some encouraging examples of cases where this connection does seem to be in effect have now been reported (e.g., reviews by Abdal-Haqq, 1998; Byrd and McIntyre, 1999). For example, in 1996, Trachtman conducted a survey of 28 “highly developed” PDS sites for the Professional Development Schools Standards Project.3 Sixty-five percent of the responding sites indicated that preservice teachers affiliated with the sites in the PDS context spent more time in field-related experiences than teachers who were enrolled in more traditional teacher education programs. In PDS arrangements, preservice teachers usually are assigned to a teaching site in cohorts, a desirable practice according to other research. These cohorts work with school-based teams of teachers. Teacher teams have a variety of functions, including curriculum development, action research, creating performance assessments, and university teaching. These preservice teachers also assume building-wide responsibilities and other roles beyond their own classroom settings, thereby providing time for practicing teachers in the school to engage in other kinds of professional work.
According to a previous study by Houston et al. (1999), at more than 80
In a presentation to the CSMTP in 1999, Abdal-Haqq reported that the number of PDS schools has risen to more than 1,000.
Additional information about this project is available at <http://www.ncate.org/accred/projects/pds/m-pds.htm>.
percent of these sites teachers worked together with college faculty to plan curricula for improving teacher education at their collaborating institution of higher education as well as on site at their schools. More than 90 percent of the respondents reported that at least one preservice course was being taught directly at their school site. Further, at more than 50 percent of the sites, teachers from grades K-12 held adjunct or other similar kinds of college faculty appointments. At 60 percent of the sites, PDS classroom teachers participated in activities connected with the upgrading of university-level teacher education program renewal. Seventy-five percent of the sites surveyed indicated that the preservice teachers working with them also engaged in research about teaching practice. Finally, 89 percent of the respondents indicated that university and school faculty worked together to plan professional development activities (Houston et al., 1999).
According to anecdotal reports, graduates of PDS programs begin their professional careers with greater knowledge and more teaching skills than graduates of more traditional preservice programs. In addition, it has been observed that teachers trained in PDS environments have a greater understanding of the diversity and the nonacademic needs of students, are more committed to and self-confident about teaching, and are more likely to reach out to others and participate in school-wide activities (Houston et al., 1999).
Houston et al. (1999) also reported that in Texas, teacher candidates with PDS experience outperformed their peers by 15 to 34 percentage points in the state’s required examination for teacher licensure, although the study authors acknowledged that it is unclear whether the difference in performance was due to PDS experience per se or to the qualities of students attracted to PDS programs.
There also is isolated statistical and anecdotal evidence that a higher percentage of PDS graduates remain in teaching. For example, in a study of the Model Clinical Teaching Program (MCTP), a PDS partnership between East Carolina University faculty and cooperating teachers in the Pitt County, NC schools was formed that included a full year of internship along with extensive and ongoing staff development. Of 60 MCTP graduates whose careers were followed after having completed this program, 96 percent continued as classroom teachers five, and in some cases, six years after entering the profession compared with a national average of less than 60 percent. After seven years of piloting this program, East Carolina University has now adopted it for the senior year of all of its
teacher preparation programs (Parmalee Hawk, personal communication). In addition, these kinds of programs also influence student performance on standardized tests. On the North Carolina state-mandated test of comprehension skills, “PDS schools performed better than most other schools in the district and were above average for the state as a whole. Minimal skill scores for the middle-school students were higher than they had ever been, and mathematics scores for third and fifth graders also improved (Apple, 1997).
In Maryland, state law requires all teacher education candidates to spend a full-year interning in a PDS. The University of Maryland (UMD) is actively engaged in Professional Development Schools in the state, and while a study has yet to be conducted regarding efficacy, anecdotally, school superintendents and participating teachers have indicated that the program makes a positive difference (Martin Johnson, 2000, personal correspondence). In UMD Professional Development Schools, clusters of schools act as the K-12 partners; i.e., five or six elementary or five or six secondary and middle schools “held together by the concept of reform and renewal.”
EDUCATING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS IN THE TEACHING OF SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS: SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS
Traditionally, most districts and states have expected teachers in the elementary grades to be generalists. Despite the accumulating evidence cited throughout this report that teachers need a deep knowledge and understanding of science and mathematics to teach these subjects effectively at any grade, education programs for people who teach in the primary grades typically emphasize and reinforce the notion of elementary teachers as non-specialists. Even in states that now require prospective elementary school teachers to major in a discipline other than education, few opt for majors in science or mathematics. Many reports have suggested, however, that teachers of all grade levels must understand deeply the subject matter that they teach and use this knowledge to teach what is appropriate to students at different grade levels (pedagogical content knowledge) if they are to be effective in the classroom (Shulman, 1987).
The idea that subject area specialists might be needed in elementary schools is not new. Following the publication of A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983),
subsequent conversations among education specialists and members of professional disciplinary societies led to the development of additional recommendations. For example, participants at a 1993 conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the NCTM, and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research recommended that, in elementary schools, specialist teachers of mathematics teach all mathematics beginning no later than grade 4 and supervise mathematics instruction at earlier grade levels (Romberg, 1994).
In recent years, many elementary schools and their districts have begun to address the disconnect between how elementary school teachers have been prepared to teach science and mathematics and the critical need for teachers who have the knowledge and acumen to work effectively with younger children in these subject areas. A number of strategies have emerged. They include
recruiting teachers who have majored in science or mathematics to teach these subjects at the elementary level (similar to their counterparts in the secondary grades and, increasingly, in the middle grades). Because many science or mathematics majors have decided to enter teaching late in their undergraduate years or thereafter, many of these students may opt to teach in private schools where certification is not required;
training current employees or hiring teachers who can serve as content specialists in these subject areas. Depending on the size of the school or district, these content specialists may be responsible for teaching most of the science program in a school and may even travel among schools to do so (similar to teachers of art or music);
establishing “teaching pods” consisting of several teachers and the students they teach within a school. In this system, every teacher oversees one class of students. One teacher in the pod may take primary responsibility for teaching science or mathematics while other teachers focus on other subject areas. Depending on the school, teachers may rotate among the classes in the pod over the course of a day or several days. Conversely, if one classroom has been specially constructed for science, teachers may remain in a given classroom throughout the day while students rotate among the classrooms.
The issue of preparing content and pedagogical specialists in science and mathematics for teaching in the elementary grades persists, however. While elementary schools are being held
increasingly responsible for improving teaching and learning in these disciplines, many current and prospective elementary school teachers continue to dislike and eschew teaching them. Given the current situation, it is difficult not to conclude that improvement in teacher preparation programs would help. For example, in a seminal report, the National Center for Improving Science Education (Raizen and Michelsohn, 1994) reported that one characteristic of effective elementary preservice teacher preparation is close professional collaboration among science faculty, education faculty, and experienced elementary school teachers. Raizen and Michelson went on to recommend at least informal collaboration between individuals and institutions on issues such as distribution requirements for students in teacher education programs.
On the basis of that report and subsequent recommendations from many other organizations, (e.g., NRC, 1996a, 1999h; NSF, 1996; ACE, 1999), it seems clear that joint planning of courses in pedagogy or science course content by science, mathematics, and engineering faculty, education faculty in these disciplines, and local classroom teachers should occur regularly. Even more desirable would be programs that integrate science content courses, methods courses, and field experiences. Such programs also could include some form of collaborative research in which university faculty and classroom teachers investigate a problem focused on improving student learning or increasing the impact of a new curriculum.
Raizen and Michelsohn (1994) mentioned Professional Development Schools as the type of setting where such collaborative program planning, implementation, and research could take place. In PDS settings, experienced elementary school teachers can be both active and coequal partners with university faculty and work with student teachers. In this kind of environment, elementary school teachers can contribute greatly to a more well-rounded teacher education program.
The kinds of data discussed in this chapter and throughout this report make clear that teacher education, recruitment, and professional development in the United States must develop new ways of doing business. The education and policy communities need to reach consensus about systems for teacher education and recruitment that, like the medical school model, can be adopted nationally and adapted by states and localities to guide and support new teachers through their first crucial years on the job. The various stakeholders in teacher education also must find better ways to provide experienced teachers with meaningful, intellectually engaging
opportunities for continual professional growth. At the same time, officials in schools and districts must recognize the emerging consensus that well-prepared teachers are critical for raising student achievement and should avoid the temptation to hire and staff their classrooms with unqualified or out-of-field teachers when personnel shortages loom.4 Further, in light of the research findings presented throughout this report, school administrators and policymakers should find ways to utilize teachers in those subject areas where they exhibit strength, interest, and training. Teachers should not be asked to teach subjects outside of their areas of competence and interest even though their certification may allow them to do so. If teachers are asked to move to teaching in those other subject areas, then additional professional development should be a prerequisite for doing so.
The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future has concluded that just as businesses and industries invest in the development of their employees, so must schools, schools systems, and policymakers invest in the ongoing education and professional development of teachers. Educators from preschool through university, parents, citizens, and students all must come to see themselves as essential stakeholders in the decisions and policies that affect the quality of education in America (Fuhrman and Massell, 1992).
Data from research and successful practice are demonstrating that it is critically important for certain groups of individuals and organizations to become actively engaged in the process of teacher education. At a minimum, these groups include faculty in mathematics, and the life, physical, and earth sciences in both two-year and four-year colleges, as well as teachers and administrators in K-12 schools. Collaborative partnerships appear to be particularly effective ways to realize improved teacher education, particularly when they involve scientists, mathematicians, and faculty from schools of education from two- and four-year colleges and universities and teachers from participating school systems (AAAS, 1989; MAA, 1991; NCTM, 1989; NRC, 1989, 1990, and 1996a; NSTA, 1998).
The data cited in this chapter point to some common themes about successful collaborative partnerships for the preparation and professional development of teachers and the enhancement
of learning by students. First, the professional community’s level of effort, commitment, and input in a school can have significant effects on student achievement. Support from the larger community in which a school is located also can make a critical difference in the success of teachers and their students. This larger community includes the policymakers, superintendents, district administrators, teacher unions, faculty and administrators from local colleges and universities, individual school staff, and other members of the community, such as leaders of local businesses and industry. It also includes scientists and mathematicians outside of academe, who can bring their understanding and everyday applications of science and mathematics concepts and skills to K-12 teaching and learning improvement. When these institutions work together as a whole, make decisions that are supportive and collegial, and invest the time and money that it takes to make a concrete impact on education, teachers are afforded the opportunity to greatly enhance their teaching practice.
Second, this enhancement in teaching practice, in turn, appears to influence positively the scholastic achievement of students and their attitudes towards learning. In schools where teachers reported higher levels of collective responsibility for student learning, learning was greater in science, mathematics, reading, and history (Newmann and Wehlage, 1995).
Third, the comprehensive approach to teacher education appears to be promising. Professional Development Schools and similar collaborative programs attempt to address teacher preparation, professional development, and student learning holistically. They encourage teacher educators and prospective teachers to see themselves as students of learning as well as students of teaching. Research suggests that teachers who develop this level of professionalism are better able to respond to the constant and fluctuating demands of their jobs. McCullough and Mintz (1992), Lampert and Ball (1998), and McIntyre et al. (1996) all have pointed to the need for preservice preparation that encourages reflective practice. For example, McIntyre et al. (1996) concluded, “Student teachers within this framework view teaching as ongoing decision-making rather than as a product or recipe. These student teachers learn that significant education must present learners with relevant problematic situations in which the learner can manipulate objects to see what happens, to question what is already known, to compare their findings and assumptions with those of others, and to search for their own answers.”
In summary, the committee has concluded that the collaborative and
holistic perspective on teacher education and student learning represented by Professional Development Schools epitomizes what is required for comprehensive teacher education. The attributes exhibited by PDS programs and other similar collaborative efforts should be viewed as integral components of all teacher education programs.
This is not enough, however. Based on its two years of study, the committee also has concluded that improvement of teacher education for science, mathematics, and technology will require greater levels of cooperation among the various stakeholders than is currently the case even among Professional Development Schools. Sustainable change will require some fundamental rethinking of the roles and strengths of each of the organizations involved in the partnerships, including the allocation or reallocation of human and financial resources from each of the partners. In the next chapter of this report, the committee presents its broad vision for improving teacher education, including concepts for how those who are involved in teacher education might rethink and redefine their roles. Recommendations for implementing this vision conclude the main report.