Monday, February 9, 2009

More on Teacher Quality and preparation

Paul Dunham writes:

If a test of teacher competence isn't available, at least it could be. I think we're in deeper trouble right here:

Standard 2:

"Education schools should insist upon higher entry standards for admittance into their programs. As a condition for admission, aspiring elementary teachers should demonstrate that their knowledge of mathematics is at the high school level (geometry and coursework equivalent to second-year algebra). Appropriate tests include standardized achievement tests, college placement tests, and sufficiently rigorous high school exit tests."

While it is clear that this is what should be the case, we might as well ask for an end to hunger or a lasting peace in the Mideast. Currently our high schools can't graduate enough students capable of meeting this requirement to go on to technical careers promising higher pay and status! If Ed schools were to change their admission requirements overnight according to this statement, their halls would be empty very soon.
Why? Because the system of Ed schools / K-12 is caught in a feed-back loop that resonates with mathematical mediocrity. Ed schools MUST admit students with weak qualifications to keep their lights on. The set of students that have good math skills and the set of students that wish to be K-12 teachers are disjoint. The Ed school standards for math proficiency start low and stay low. They will process and graduate these folks and send them out to work where they will perpetuate our national numeracy crisis.

Look at the syllabus for Math 100 and 102 at UW. These are V. Warfileld's courses for "students admitted with a deficiency in mathematics", covering topics comprised of topics that belong in grades 5-8, and offered for college credit in the school of Ed. Here is a description of requrements for admission. The only Math class listed here that I can find is for Math 170. This is not a math course. It is a V Warfield Math Ed course, also described in the link above. There is no advanced content here, just grade-school fundamentals with a heaping helping of empty-calorie pedagogical fluff. Surely somewhere there is a school of Ed where this is situation is different (the NCTQ report has praise for a few programs), but I suspect that the pattern entrenched at UW is common across the nation.
Be sure and read Sudhakar's comment that follows


dan dempsey said...


Interesting link to those UW Math courses. Math 170:
My aim in it is to solidify students' understanding of the most basic concepts and skills they will be teaching--notably place value, fractions and problem solving--while developing their consciousness of how they and others around them actually learn

So this is not an education course but a math course #170 and this is what goes on in Math 170 =
to solidify students' understanding of the most basic concepts and skills they will be teaching--notably place value, fractions and problem solving-

Looks like 6th grade has moved to college .... this might be OK in an education class ( how desperate are we ) but from the department of mathematics at a major university ... I am stunned.

Check out what goes on in Korea and Singapore and Japan for those that wish to teach ... this is tragic. The UW is our premiere public university in the state ... I wonder what goes on at WSU, WWU, CWU, and Evergreen. How sad.


Sudhakar Kudva said...

Dan -

It is not just Korea, Singapore or Japan. I am visiting as many schools as I can on my current trip to India, and what I am finding is enough to sober up anyone. Please note we are talking about a nation that has over 3 times the population of the US. So, the magnitude you see is several times larger than either Korea of Singapore.

The first thing I noticed is that a teaching degree is a one year post graduate degree, named B.Ed (Bachelor of Education). To apply for one, a candidate needs to have successfully passed a bachelor's program in the Arts, Business, or the Sciences. I did not come across any "general ed" degree anywhere.

Second, the subject matter specialization happens much earlier. One school had as many as 5 teachers teaching 1st grade, especially for languages. At least two languages are taught in Elementary school. A third is mandatory at middle school. Math and Science get specialized as early as 3rd grade.

Third, there is little to no argument over what to teach, or how. Most teaching is "direct instruction". Curricula are of very high standard, and are mandated by state or national boards. Since everyone needs to pass a 10th grade exit exam to move on to college prep schools, competition is intense. Material to pass the 10th grade exit exam in three languages, social studies, science, and mathematics is of the same caliber as some non AP senior level courses in the US. Unlike the US, wage rates are proportional to the level of educational attainment.

Fourth, hard sciences are favored by most students. In college prep schools (grades 11th and 12th), enrollment in science based tracks trumps business 2 to 1, and liberal arts 4 to 1. Some schools do not offer any other tracks besides science tracks. This is the exact opposite of the US. Teaching science courses at the high school (through 10th grade) requires a degree in science, preferably a master's degree at the highest level. Teaching science at college prep level (11th and 12th grades) requires at least a master's degree in the field of specialization.

I am digging up more stuff every day. Stay tuned for updates on my blog.