Monday, June 22, 2009

Student Quality in Teacher Education Programs: What GRE Data Tells Us

While I'm not a regular reader of the Indianapolis Business Journal, I was intrigued by this recent article on student quality in teacher education programs.  The Journal looked at students entering undergraduate education majors as well as those beginning graduate education programs.  Included were three interesting findings:

  • Education majors in Indiana colleges and universities ranked roughly 5% lower than their peers in other majors, based on SAT scores
  • Based on GRE scores nationwide, those entering elementary education graduate programs are roughly 8% below their peers in other fields
  • Based on the same nationwide GRE scores, those entering secondary education graduate programs are roughly 10% above their peers in other fields

Where teacher certification is concerned, there are multiple conclusions to be drawn from data like this.  On the one hand, it suggests we need more rigorous certification standards.  If education is attracting less than stellar minds, we need to do what we can to see that only the deserving make it into the classroom.  Data like this, along with the recent debacle on the Massachusetts math tests, show us the harsh truth: if certification was easier, we'd have law quality students becoming teachers.  

This said, I tend to draw a different conclusion from such data.  I see here further proof of the culture of education programs.  They are, quite rightly, regarded as unchallenging and undesirable by the best students.  We could change this problem from the bottom up, by trying to recruit more high quality students into education programs, or we could go at it from the top down, using a TFA/Teachers Fellows approach, where we bring high quality individuals into the classroom and let them give education a new face.  If we follow this line of reasoning, we need to continue pushing for alternative certification programs and other methods of getting high quality individuals into our classrooms quickly. 

3 comments:

  1. high quality individuals with a passion for reform are going to be drawn to positions that offer the chance to change the system and that's where TFA as wellas as charter schools have been coming out with full force. We're seeing a trend towards the dual existence of the old guard district 30 year pensioned teacher with the transient young professionals. Given the nature of the passionate younger faces, it is hard to expect they would be in it for longer than 10 years but easier access to certification that has a true vetting process would certainly ensure a more constant flow of such individuals into the field of education. Likewise, there's the hope that they will remain in the field at possibly the administrative and policy based levels to continue to push towards effective classrooms as a whole.

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