"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Clinically-Based Teacher Preparation"

If there is a phrase that you are likely to get as sick of hearing in the next few years as you did "scientifically-based evidence" during the last few, it is likely to be "clinically based teacher preparation."  No doubt, too, this new catch phrase will have about as much connection to science as the last one did, which is minimal to none.

"Clinically-based teacher preparation" represents a new scheme to further weaken the impetus toward child advocacy and ethical student treatment, the social justice mission of schools, and the progressive and humane philosophical grounding of teacher education that has been under attack since Reagan came to power.  The new plan was incubated and hatched by the gang that brought you the era of nonstop test and punish, corporate welfare charter queens, anti-cultural shrunken curricula, teacher demonization and union busting, Reading First parrot teaching, DIBELS, corporate tutoring, the super-sized junk food textbook, and unending data surveillance systems.  It has been marched out under the banner of what has been until now a highly-regarded teacher accreditation outfit known as NCATE.

First, a comment about the psychology of this "comprehensive" report, which bears the schizophrenic markings that only come from hurried committee construction by forces in clear opposition.  For instance, we see corporate America's anti-preparation program, Teach for America, mentioned in the same paragraph with the highly-respected Alverno College, as if there is some equivalence of legitimacy between the two to teacher education.  And many alternative prep scams in between, all given full-throated support by the organization charged with the responsibility to uphold the integrity of teacher education in the U. S. Sad, but done. Very sad.

If NCATE really wanted to move to a clinical model that would emulate American medical education, it would have taken some effort the make changes much more significant than the ones outlined in this pathetic report.  For instance, in medical ed, we have pre-med preceding med school, which has its clinical internship, as well as pre-clinical component.  The pre-clinical is made up of three years of classroom study in basic and medical science, supplemented by heavy doses of acculturation and observation. Following the clinical comes at least three years in residency.

Based on the three "crucial goals" being advanced below, it would seem that very little time or coursework, if any, is being added to the "clinical" teacher model.  Rather, it seems that more of the existing time is being given over to the "clinical" with the effect being a further reduction of the pre-clinical.  If you can think of a doctor prescribing a medicine without understanding chemical interactions, or a surgeon cutting you open without knowing where the veins and arteries are, then you get the picture.  The pre-clinical body of knowledge--child development, educational psychology and sociology, educational philosophy and history, learning science, cognitive science, curriculum theory and practice, research skills, classroom management, and human dynamics--all will be subjected in the new plan to a further squeeze, rather than being expanded to really develop the heft, breadth, and depth that would truly emulate a medical model.

So does TFA, then, qualify as a "clinical" model?  Why not?  Let's give these med students 5 weeks of pre-clinical education and then dump them into a hospital where people are dying left and right. But don't worry, they are learning something about chemistry and anatomy at night after a ten-hour day at the hospital, where the roof is leaking, by the way, and there's no toilet paper in the bathroom, and patients are being treated in broom closets.

This phony-baloney, scientifically-sounding super sham of a plan represents the final capitulation by a once-respectable organization to the corporate boards, corporate foundations, and the oligarchs who own them.  This will open the floodgates to "alternative certification" and the further diminution and marginalization of university programs that have never acceded to the new role of training prison guards, rather than teachers.  Teacher education, the real kind, will survive through this dark period, but it won't be with the help of an agency whose integrity has been bought and paid for by the corporate oligarchy for the benefit a handful of dress up and go to lunch bureaucrats with the moral courage of slugs.

Oh yes, the crucial goals:

Specifically, the Alliance partners will focus on advancing three crucial goals:
1. Foster collaborative partnerships among schools, districts, and teacher preparation programs by:
Identifying demonstration sites that have or will develop a strong partnership between teacher preparation programs and school districts or schools with a particular focus on high-needs schools.

Testing different delivery models for clinically based teacher preparation such as year-long residencies as part of four year programs; two-year post-baccalaureate programs using spiral curricula that weave together content, theory and laboratory experiences in year one and full year school-embedded residencies in year two; and preservice practica experiences designed to engage candidates with a group of students throughout their professional programs to follow their cognitive, social, and developmental needs over time.

Establishing incentives to create joint responsibility for induction by hiring districts and preparation programs.

Developing innovative funding models to institutionalize teacher preparation through the  school/teacher preparation program clinical model.

Working with diverse preparation programs to assure that robust clinical teacher preparation is a central feature across all pathways into the teaching profession.

2. Assess all aspects of performance on a continuing basis by:
Collecting and analyzing multiple measures of formative and summative assessment data used by teacher candidates reflecting classroom learning and school improvement.

Linking performance assessments to state licensing requirements.

Expecting demonstration sites to establish and implement an accountability system based on assessment measures of graduates’ and programs’ performance through value-added and other measures in state and district longitudinal data systems.

Including performance assessment of establishing teacher preparation programs for the purpose of program improvement in the state’s teacher preparation approval system.

3. Develop more effective state policies to prepare teachers who meet school needs by:
Offering incentives or establishing policies that guide the numbers and types of teachers who are prepared so that school and district needs are met.

Identifying and eliminating or addressing state and local policies and practices that might impede innovation and shifting to clinically based teacher preparation programs.

Creating a “scale-up” plan to expand from a limited number of clinical teacher preparation partnerships to a state-wide system of such partnerships as a means for improving student learning – especially in high-needs schools.

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