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Local Editorials

Teacher training programs fail to effectively teach concepts

There is a movement working its way through higher education to make sure an institution’s degree programs are globally competitive for today’s marketplace. 

Two major challenges faced in this movement are: 1) the ability of instructors to teach concepts and apply them to the focus of the degree program on a level commensurate with global standards; and 2) the fact that twelve years after passage of NCLB, 82 percent of public schools continue to graduate students behind grade level (in Iowa it is about two years behind grade level) because of the lack of concepts in the curriculum and the lack of instructor training to effectively teach concepts (both having been removed about fifty years ago). 

Iowa’s student proficiency standard is a pathetic 41st national percentile (equating with 4th-graders considered proficient when achieving at the 3.2 grade level, 8th-grades at the 6.9 grade level, and 11th-graders at the 9.2 grade level), while the 65th national percentile is considered grade level in this country, and it would take our 95th national percentile to be at grade level for international standards (an indication of how low our standards have become).

The National Council of Teacher Quality periodically surveys teacher training programs in each state and releases the results on their web site.  They rate schools that have the potential to effectively teach concepts, noting the following:

In countries where students outperform the U.S., teacher prep schools recruit candidates from the top third of the college-going population. The Review found only one in four U.S. programs restricts admissions to even the top half of the college-going population.

A large majority of programs (71 percent) are not providing elementary teacher candidates with practical, research-based training in reading instruction methods that could reduce the current rate of reading failure (30 percent) to less than 10 percent of the student population.

In mathematics training of elementary teacher candidates, few programs emulate the practices of higher performing nations such as Singapore or South Korea. Only 19 percent of programs demonstrate similar expectations of their teachers. Almost all programs (93 percent) fail to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, where candidates are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and must receive frequent concrete feedback.

Only 23 percent of rated programs are doing enough to provide teacher candidates with concrete classroom management strategies to improve classroom behavior problems.  Best Practices change when concepts are taught. Only 11 percent of elementary programs and 47 percent of secondary programs are providing adequate content preparation for teachers in the subjects they will teach.”

According to the NTCQ, the undergraduate secondary program at the University of Iowa is on the Teacher Prep Review’s Honor Roll, earning at least three out of four possible stars. Across the country, NCTQ identified 21 elementary programs (4 percent of those rated) and 84 secondary programs (14 percent) for the Honor Roll.

It makes sense that the University of Iowa program would rank higher than other programs in Iowa (most of which have no ranking, some because they refuse to take part in the survey).  Iowa Testing Services, writers of the ITBS and ITED tests, is located there and they just switched back (after 50 years) to testing for concepts in the 2011-12 school year (when student results fell).  

ACT is also there, and they released a report in 2007 titled “The Forgotten Middle:  Ensuring that All Students Are on Target for College and Career Readiness before High School”, promoting a return to concepts and an abandonment of the bogus defective student theory.  

Iowa State University comes in with some lesser notice: 

“Eighty-three programs across the country earn a Strong Design designation because they are both selective and diverse, including the graduate secondary program”. 

If a teacher training program could show its graduates were meeting world standards, why not prove that with the survey results and attract enrollment? 

Iowa students continue to fall in national ranking because the teacher training programs have failed to switch to the methods necessary to effectively teach concepts, something the rest of the world did not stop doing when we did.

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