Thursday, May 30, 2013

Teacher Prep Academies = charter schools for teachers?

ed.gov
Interesting post this week from Anthony Cody on his great blog on Edweek, Living in Dialogue about pending legislation that would enable teachers to be certified by alternative teacher prep academies instead of the traditional colleges of education. As Anthony points out there are some inherent problems in this approach and clearly some interesting politics at play but as a concept I find it intriguing in much the same way as charter schools. I won't argue that charter schools are problematic and being used as a political football but the question for me is why we need charter schools in the first place? If our traditional public school system was meeting the needs of students then charters wouldn't be necessary. And as Kentucky's Districts of Innovation (perhaps a preemptive strike against charter legislation) rolls out this year it seems clear that we need disruption to a system that continues to make it difficult for schools and leaders to prepare students for their futures.
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The truth is too many of our schools and school leaders are mired in an outdated model that is not responsive to students. Exemplary schools doing great work are clearly the exception, not the rule. Another truth is that our teacher training systems have been similarly ineffective. Nearly any educator will confirm that one of the great ironies of this industry is how poor teacher pre-service preparation programs have historically been. Are charters and teacher prep academies the answer? As "anti-charter" as Anthony is we've had a couple great discussions about the powerful work being done by Albuquerque's ACE Leadership Academy, itself a charter school. He's even had their innovative Principal as a guest blogger. So it's not that charters are inherently bad, instead it's the way they've been applied and we can assume the same with teacher prep academies. A disruptive alternative that forces a major change in how teachers are trained is absolutely essential but it has to be driven by the right motives, thus is the conundrum. I don't want to be accused of participating in the war on teachers, there are many great ones, but the reality is our schools and teaching need to improve as do our teacher prep programs. What if teacher prep programs were like the one at High Tech High where they train their teachers much like an apprenticeship? I love the idea of innovative educators training future teachers in the craft of teaching, helping them refine their work as they work, not in some classroom on a university campus. Why don't our colleges of education engage with our public schools in meaningful ways like this instead of a bunch of uninspired coursework capped off by student/intern teaching? The future of education depends heavily on the teachers and the programs that train them so don't we have a moral imperative to respond? How can we transform our teaching force and prep programs without the entanglements that seem to come with charters and the like?