Thursday, May 21, 2009

Goldwater Institute: "I'm Sick of Coloring for a Master's Degree"

Mattby Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.
A recent article in the Weekly Standard about a conference held by education academics included the following deeply revealing passage about the ability of Arizona State University to prepare teachers for real-life classroom challenges:

empty classroomMost surprising was a paper presented by Cory Hansen, an education professor at Arizona State, in a Teach for America session...Hansen recounted the things that she and her fellow professors had learned while teaching education courses at night in an evening master's program for Teach for America teachers staffing elementary classrooms in some of Phoenix's worst neighborhoods.

Teach for America teachers, already overworked and beset by myriad real-life problems at their schools, had little use for abstract ideological theorizing and demanded quick, practical training: real lesson plans and classroom-management techniques that worked. In their course evaluations they brutally criticized the program, which had been adapted from the traditional education program at Arizona State: "Some professors talk down to us." "I'm sick of coloring for a master's degree."

Starting the next semester, she said, the professors completely revamped the Teach for America program. After the conference I called Hansen and also Heather Carter, who directs the Teach for America program at Arizona State, to hear more about the changes they had made. "We needed to make really valuable use of their time," Carter said. "This is what you have to do in alternative certification programs. We have to give them coherence, teach them how to teach specific things." Both Carter and Hansen said that the changes they made for Teach for America have given them insight into possible changes in their traditional program.

I recently had the opportunity to see ASU President Michael Crow detail his plans to restructure of the College of Education. Hopefully the new organization, which separates teacher preparation from the "abstract ideological theorizing," will better prepare teachers for their vitally important jobs. Good for Dr. Crow, it is long overdue. But it begs the question: why do we have "Coloring for a Master's Degree" programs at all?
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.
Learn more:
Goldwater Institute: The Trouble with Triviality

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good for Goldwater. Get rid of Crow.