New Regs May Deter Schools from Student Teachers in Indiana

Student teachers’ field experiences are a foundation of their teacher training, but a new teacher evaluation law in Indiana that measures student-teacher evaluation on how classroom students perform has some schools wary,  as reported at the Journal Gazette.

“I’ve heard teachers say it directly and indirectly,” said Steve Brace, the Indiana State Teachers Association representative for Fort Wayne Community Schools teachers. “They’re saying, ‘We’re not having a student teacher any more if everything is going to be tied to student test scores.’ ”

It’s not just teachers reluctant to take on the risk of inexperienced educators. FWCS placed more than 200 student teachers in its classrooms in the 2008 and 2009 school years, according to spokeswoman Krista Stockman, but the number fell to 114 last year because the district did not allow student teachers in the 11 LEAD schools targeted for improvement.

With promising results from their turnaround efforts, some of the LEAD schools have student teachers this year, but the district still plans to limit student-teaching assignments to about 110 this year.

Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the School of Education at Indiana University-Bloomington, said a task force there looked for ways to address educators’ concerns.

“They are very apprehensive about giving up some instructional time to students who are novices,” he said. “While there has always been a commitment to professional development, there is an inherent fear in continuing that the commitment will impact teachers and schools in the short term.”

Gonzalez said a new model of the student teaching experience is evolving, but he emphasized the importance of maintaining the links between teacher education programs and schools.

Kathleen Murphey, associate dean in the IPFW School of Education, said the push from both the Indiana Department of Education and from teacher education professionals is to a “residency” model, which places student teachers in a longer assignment in a single school.

“They are pushing us to have more and more field experiences and to incorporate the residency model so that teachers are better prepared,” Murphey said. “At the same time, because of these new rules about teacher accountability and the fact that teachers are responsible on their evaluations … (teachers) are hesitant to take a student teacher. We run into some major impediments.”

The evaluation law and its effect on teacher preparation is just one unintended effect. Schools of education around the state are also seeing fewer students choose teaching as a major, writes the Journal Gazette.

At IU-Bloomington, the number of students admitted to the education program is up because of targeted recruiting efforts, but the number of students who cite education as their intended major fell from 1,017 last fall to 845 this year, according to the dean.