A new study from the National Council on Teacher Quality suggests that college teacher preparation programs are not sufficiently preparing education school students for real-world classrooms.
The report, Easy A’s and What’s Behind Them, states that giving students higher grades without rigorous courses does a disservice to the future of education by sending graduates into the workforce unprepared for the real world.
Researchers observed 509 teacher preparation programs, discovering that those students majoring in education were more likely to receive A’s than students with other majors.
“You’re not doing anyone any favors … by handing out meaningless A’s that send a signal that says you’re prepared, and you get into a real classroom and it’s like hitting a brick wall,” says Kate Walsh, president of the council. “Every piece of evidence points to the fact that teachers aren’t getting prepared adequately to enter the classroom, by and large.”
The type of students enrolled, the effectiveness of teachers in the programs, and grade inflation were not considered to be significant factors. No correlation was found between honors graduation rates and high standards for admissions to teacher preparation programs. In addition, grade inflation would have increased the grades of all students, yet it was the education students who received “excessively high grades.”
Some educators suggest the higher grades to be a cause of entering a program that requires fieldwork, which involves skill mastery in a real-world environment. However, an examination of colleges that have both nursing and teaching programs (each of which contain a fieldwork component) showed education students still graduating with honors at a higher rate.
Instead, the high grades were found to be a product of class assignments, the majority of which were based on student opinions rather than knowledge, skills or techniques.
Overall, 30% of students who completed the programs studied graduated with honors; 44% received the distinction. At 121 schools, that gap was 20 percentage points.
However, at 214 schools no substantial difference was noted. At 62 universities, fewer education students received honors than did students in other majors.
“These results are a wake-up call for higher education, a confirmation of the damaging public perception that too often getting an education degree is among the easier college career paths – although it is in preparation for one of the most challenging jobs there is,” the report says.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said teachers have been aware of the issues surrounding teacher preparation programs for years, saying the AFT have been asking for improvements for over a decade. Weingarten said the preparation programs should offer more rigorous coursework and clinical experiences much like medical preparation programs.
Walsh suggests teachers and administrators involved in a particular teacher preparation program come together and define what level of coursework constitutes each grade level to ensure better outcomes.
“The truth of the matter is the prevalence of these criterion-deficient assignments are really a result of a field that has yet to embrace there are certain strategies and techniques and knowledge and skills that work better than others,” Walsh says. “The field is still very much of the mindset that whatever you want to teach about anything is fine, that the teacher preparation candidates will decide on their own how to teach.”