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Teacher training schools dispute study’s ‘grades,’ data and methodology

lecture hall
Whether the concerns of traditional teacher prep programs about the NCTQ rating are borne out, there is widespread agreement that change is needed.

Last week, the Minnesota colleges that train all but a handful of the state’s K-12 teachers successfully lobbied to end a 4-year-old agreement that made it easier to place alternatively trained teachers in local classrooms. This week, many of the established institutions earned failing grades in a new report that declared teacher training “an industry of mediocrity.”

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) said that in general the programs don’t prepare graduates to enter the workforce, instead “churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity.”

Advocates: Study flawed

Advocates for the programs were quick to fire back, calling NCTQ’s data woefully inadequate and its methodology flawed.

“The information NCTQ has about our programs for making their ratings is grossly incomplete,” said Mistilina Sato, director of the University of Minnesota’s Educator Development and Research Center. “They decided to provide a rating for our institution even though we chose to not participate.”

The report, which gives Minnesota’s programs slightly better than average marks, comes just days after the state Board of Teaching voted to deny Teach for America-Twin Cities a variance enabling its corps members to teach while qualifying for a full teacher’s license. The Minnesota Association of Colleges for Teacher Education was among those who successfully lobbied the board.

The board, which operates independently from the rest of the K-12 system, oversees and approves teacher-preparation programs in Minnesota. In the moments leading up to last week’s vote, several of its members, including representatives of teacher training programs, indicated they think the state’s teacher corps receives exceptional training.

If it sounds like opposing camps are squaring off, it should.

As education policy becomes more and more focused on teacher effectiveness, and alternative routes to a teacher’s license become more prevalent, colleges of education are increasingly under pressure.

No surprise then that the NCTQ’s survey, the first of its kind, was controversial long before it reached any conclusions. Founded in 2000, the nonprofit was intended to provide an alternative voice to existing teacher organizations.

When it began designing a system for assessing training programs, the pushback was immediate here and elsewhere. With cooperation not forthcoming, two years ago the group asked the University of Minnesota system and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) for extensive materials, including syllabi for courses.

Such course materials — thought to reveal a student’s exposure to content and rigor, among other things — are routinely reviewed in association with teacher licensure. But with the exception of St. Cloud State University, both state school systems refused to provide them.

Lawsuits over data release

MnSCU conceded that the documents were public under Minnesota’s Data Practices law, the state’s freedom of information statute, but also said its policy was to consider syllabi the intellectual property of its instructors, who are unionized. After some back and forth, NCTQ sued.

Last October, Ramsey County District Court Judge John H. Guthmann issued an order [PDF] agreeing with the nonprofit. The University of Minnesota then complied with the portion of the NCTQ request that was covered by the law. MNSCU, however, appealed. The case is pending.

Minnesota’s public higher-ed systems weren’t the only ones that refused to turn over the records. In fact, only 10 percent of programs contacted responded voluntarily. All told, NCTQ filed similar lawsuits in seven states involving 57 institutions; one is being heard today in Missouri.

Meanwhile the group forged ahead, looking for alternate means of obtaining information. One of its critiques, for instance, is that teacher colleges are not selective enough when it comes to admitting promising students. NTCQ ultimately obtained information on selection criteria from many programs’ catalogs.

In the end, the report released earlier this week assigned ratings of up to four stars to 1,200 programs at 608 institutions — fewer than half the schools that train teachers. The programs graduate three-fourths of the 200,000 new teachers trained each year.

Fewer than 10 percent earned three or more stars, and only four received four stars. Some 14 percent got zero.

The listings were published Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report, along with a strongly worded editorial. However, the full report from NCTQ is easier to navigate.  

Only 4 percent of Minnesota’s traditional programs voluntarily submitted the data NCTQ requested. Private programs that graduate fewer than 20 teachers a year were not included in the review.

In Minnesota, programs at Gustavus Adolphus College, the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the University of Minnesota–Morris and the University of St. Thomas earned four or more stars.

Overall, Minnesota fared better than average on some of the elements rated. A third of the state’s programs restrict admission to the top half of each college-bound cohort, compared with 28 percent nationwide. And 40 percent of programs evaluated in Minnesota met the group’s goal for reading instruction, vs. the 29 percent nationally.

Every Minnesota high-school teacher prep program surveyed met NCTQ’s goals for teacher mastery of content. But every program at both the elementary and secondary level failed its goals for providing high-quality student teaching experiences. 

The group measured the wrong things and did so with scanty data, according to administrators at the U of M’s College of Education and Human Development.

“Since we provided the minimum amount of information possible under the guidance of our Office of General Counsel (primarily course syllabi and assessment instruments), we expected that our ranking could be quite low in comparison to other institutions,” said its statement. “This ranking is a reflection of the limited data that NCTQ reviewed and their particular expectations about teacher education.”

The college is proud of its ratings from other bodies, the statement continued. “The U of M recently received the highest standard of accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), a national accrediting body for the U of M and other higher-education teacher preparation programs. NCATE recognized the U of M for exemplary performance in its partnership with local schools and the high quality experiences that our teacher candidates have in classrooms during their preparation program.”

Agreement on need for change

Whether the concerns of traditional teacher prep programs about the NCTQ rating are borne out, there is widespread agreement that change is needed.

In a preview of the report released Monday, the Center for American Progress noted that other groups, including the Council of Chief State School Officers and the American Federation of Teachers have also called for improvement.

Together with the NCTQ survey, “These reports correctly identify weak teacher-preparation programs as being key to the failure of public education to improve instruction for all students,” the center reported.

“According to recent figures, nearly a third of the U.S. teaching workforce is in its first five years on the job, which underscores the importance of having a high-quality pre-employment-training infrastructure to prepare new teachers.

“In order to meet students’ needs, new teachers — and there are 200,000 of them each year—must be able to offer competent instruction from the first day they set foot in the classroom,” it said. “Yet a survey of 500 new teachers by the American Federation of Teachers found that fewer than half thought that their teacher-training program adequately prepared them for their first year of teaching. Clearly, there is room to improve the quality of teacher education.”

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Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/21/2013 - 10:59 am.

    Big assumptions

    “Together with the NCTQ survey, “These reports correctly identify weak teacher-preparation programs as being key to the failure of public education to improve instruction for all students,” the center reported.”

    There it is, again. Correlation is not causation. This is a claim based on 2 questionable things: 1. This rating report, which appears to contradict some other similar rating reports; and 2. The assumption that teachers have power over every aspect of teaching to very diverse groups of students. It’s a foolish assumption, at best, and a politically driven wedge, at worst.

    While I agree that improvements need to be made at various levels with regard to education, I strongly disagree that a survey of 500 new teachers, the reference to which doesn’t elaborate on very much at all, is even close to representative of the 200,000 a year that come into the profession. I tell you what, I didn’t come out of my graduate degree and start my career knowing what in the hell I was doing. That’s not a failure on the part of my graduate training, it’s called entering the REAL WORLD. Of course we’re not fully prepared for it. No one is until we enter it. I’m sure there are improvements that could be made. But there is an assumption of massive failure, and a claim that everyone should be able to hit the ground running. I’m not seeing it the failure on the scale that some people claim, and it’s ridiculous to believe that you can be fully trained to do a job such as teaching immediately out of the gate.

  2. Submitted by Susan Herridge on 06/21/2013 - 11:48 am.


    Beth, you are doing a great job covering this. Duelling teacher prep rating organizations and higher ed institutions in a snit does not always make for above the fold headlines, but understanding this could not be more critical for any Minnesotan that is deeply ashamed of (or even mildly concerned about) our achievement gap and wants to do something about it. Keep dragging it out into the open, and help us understand.

  3. Submitted by Jim Mork on 06/21/2013 - 12:34 pm.

    Wrong Focus

    Teacher training can always be improved, but no progress will be made till education reformers start to look at the social milieu. The cliché that teachers are somehow incompetent and causing this totally ignores the reality that teachers are successfully teaching students who go on to do brilliant post high school work. What needs to be asked is: If the “methods” are so bad, why do they work so well with so many students? The attack on teachers is part of the war on everything public. And it is shocking that people who seem intelligent enough to know better are buying into this mythology. There is a culture that glorifies stupidity in America. We turn the dumbest people, like Honey Boo Boo’s family, into rich celebrities. Why would students who don’t get the value system that stupidity is dishonorable pursue intelligence? Parents TV watching probably has more to do with student failure than any higher education program for teachers.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/21/2013 - 03:46 pm.

      Exactly this

      Yes, teachers can and should improve. But blaming them for the achievement gap ignores the society in which the achievement gap evolved. If it was purely the teachers, the achievement gap wouldn’t exist. Or are people saying that the “good teachers” only go to “white schools” or “rich schools” because they have something against minority children? I don’t buy it.

  4. Submitted by Jim Bartholomew on 06/21/2013 - 12:51 pm.

    Information and options are good things

    If you’re doing well, comparisons with peers shouldn’t be a scary thing – certainly not something you go to court to hide from.

    MN has some excellent teacher prep programs. That said, we also have some that aren’t so great. Unfortunately, its not surprising that MACTE – the organization that represents both the best and not so good – resists comparisons that highlight disparities in performance between its members.

    If we want to develop more new teachers who are better prepared to help all students succeed, then we need to be able to raise expectations for teacher prep. Part of this means we need comparitive information that identifies prep programs that aren’t top performers, reasons for thier relatively low performance and needed actions to help them improve.

    Another example of how we could raise expectations for new teacher preparation is to set passing scores on teacher licensure exams that expect more than being a “just acceptable candidate”. “Just acceptable” is defined as someone who will do no educational harm to students due to inadequate levels of knowledge or skills. This “just acceptable” definition is MN’s current expectation!

    The MN Board of Teaching has also thought it was important to create flexibility and options for how new teachers are prepared – one of the reasons for the Board’s support for Teach for America (TFA). Hopefully, the Board’s previous support for flexibility and options (e.g. TFA) will be renewed.

    Teachers, and the their preparation, are too important to assume the status quo will continue to meet student needs. We should welcome efforts like the NCTQ’s nationwide comparison of teacher prep programs (identify strengths and weaknesses), as well as options like TFA.

    Defending the status quo is a losing bet in a rapidly evolving world.

    • Submitted by Patrick Steele on 06/21/2013 - 02:51 pm.

      re: Information and options are good things

      How do you reconcile your support for Teach for America with the idea that these traditional teacher training programs are inadequate? TFA, which takes recent college graduates with no formal training to be a teacher and gives them five weeks of training, sounds a lot less rigorous than even the most relaxed of the full-time, multi-year teacher preparatory programs in this report. How do we know that this program is better than the worst of traditional training programs (based on NCTQ’s benchmark or any other)? Teach for America says their teachers are “helping lead an educational revolution in low-income communities” yet low-income communities are home to the schools with the poorest educational outcomes. Why aren’t we advocating a thorough investigation of the effectiveness of TFA’s five week training program?

      I agree that information and options are a good thing, but I want information to be gathered and provided in good faith and options to be tried and tested.

      • Submitted by Sean Boley on 06/24/2013 - 01:02 pm.


        You’re right, there is no way to know that TFA’s 5 week program is better than a traditional teaching program. And I would argue that it is not supposed to be. Don’t forget that these TFA teachers, along with teaching, are enrolled in graduate level education courses at night – so that they will have their traditional teacher licenses by the end of their time in the program. That is of course, after they pass the same tests the traditionally trained teachers pass. One should also consider that these TFA teachers are not selected at random. TFA has a remarkably rigorous screeening/recruiting/interview process – selecting from a pool that is already in the very top of their respective classes in already very competitive undergraduate colleges. This compared to traditional teacher training programs who only 28% of even require, according to the report, candidates to be in the top HALF of their graduating high school class. That is an awfully low bar, if you ask me.

        But I digress, I think the point of this article is to point out the irony and contradiction of the situation – where the teacher’s union and lobby for traditional licensure are going to incredible lengths to squash a change to the status quo, all the while a non-partisan third party group have come to the conclusion that the traditional licensure programs is woefully inadequate. There is something here about throwing stones and glass houses, I am pretty sure. All to protect the interests of the adults in the equation – not those we should care most about: the students.

        It is so easy to say “more is better”!, like it is an AT&T commercial. But, more and more, it is becoming clear that that is not the case, and it is time to try something different. Not something different in every classroom for every teacher in Minnesota – we are talking about trying something different in 70 some odd classrooms. To reverse the old cliche “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, why not: if it’s broke, why not try and fix it?

  5. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 06/21/2013 - 02:38 pm.


    In most classes I’ve taken, if the student refuses to take the test, they flunk. I think that these education programs are demanding that we give them the benefit of the doubt, despite their unwillingness to be evaluated by outside organizations. These same education programs are pretty quick to evaluate programs like Teach for America.

    The issue is really not individual teacher performance, but the performance of schools. During a student’s K-12 career, they have the opportunity to learn from many teachers – at least 40 by my quick calculation. What matters is three things – first, that they complete their diploma, second, that they compare favorably to other students in other communities and third, that they have a desire to be life-long learners – that is, their curiosity and natural desire to learn new things, including new ways to learn, has been extinguished. On these three bases, too many of our students are not succeeding – many don’t complete high school, we have tremendous variation in achievement within and between communities (and compare poorly to other countries as a result) and we have a passive, inactive culture.

    This isn’t the fault of traditional education – our entire society has created this situation – but can we allow our traditional education programs to operate much like they did 50 years ago, when old approaches are clearly not working well enough.

    Students who work hard and don’t assume they already know everything tend to do a lot better in school – doesn’t this same rule apply to the so-called education experts, who know a lot less than they think.

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 06/25/2013 - 11:13 am.

      Your third point is controversial

      For many people the purpose of our education system is to train people for employment as a wage earner. Stamping out curiousity is considered a feature, not a bug.

  6. Submitted by Emily Sojourn on 06/21/2013 - 03:44 pm.

    It’s all perspective…

    During WWII, my father became a teacher with no better credentials than the fact that he had a college degree. (The degree was in Psychology; they had him teaching Biology.) He went on to earn his teaching licence and a Master’s Degree while teaching full time and retired an eminently respected educator. No one cared that he got his start by teaching himself the class’ next-day material the night before. There was a war and teachers were scarce.

    In the 1950s my mother received teacher prep. which she describes today as being “simply horrendous.” Again, no one cared. This time, because America was basking in the glow of being “the best country on the planet”. They assumed everything was perfect.

    My point is that all these stories make poor educational performance and less-than-ideal teacher prep. sound like a new thing that is ravaging the country. It’s not. It’s how a generation perceives it to be.

    I’ll be clear: I’m not saying there isn’t concern, but no more so than any other generation. It has been blown out of proportion to seem like this unprecedented, contentious war which inspires people like Jim Bartholomew to spew out platitudes about what “we” need to do. (“We”, Jim? Do you work in the educational system or are you just another Internet expert?)

    So basically, brava Rachel Kahler for speaking the absolute truth: no one comes out of professional training ready to do any job really well. And if a few actual resources and support could be thrown teachers’ way, (as opposed to accusing them of being incompetent and sermonizing about how they need to do their job,) it’ll be amazing what can be done.

    • Submitted by Jim Bartholomew on 06/21/2013 - 06:18 pm.

      It’s not the 1940s & 50s anymore

      Emily – A Nation At Risk came out in 1983, one generational call for change that persists today.

      Educational expectations for today’s students are higher than ever – and increasing because of our global society. In 5 short years, 70% of all jobs in MN will require completion of at least some post-secondary education.

      The idea that simply graduating from high school is enough to enter a self-sustaining career is pretty much done…..not to mention MN’s achievement and graduation gaps – my goodness, less than half of Mpls. students of color will graduate from high school.

      I don’t think anyone is criticizing indivdual teachers – we all know teachers who pour their heart and soul into educating our kids. What I’m suggesting is the systems we use to prepare teachers and district structures, governance and practices need to be more responsive to changing needs – and opportunities.

      • Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 06/23/2013 - 03:51 pm.

        Two points: 1) NAR was a sham – it claimed educational attainment in the US was falling when it was actually rising. This was because ACT or SAT scores were falling – but they were falling because many more students from lower levels of attainment were taking the test.

        2) The 70% claim is also a complete sham foisted by McKinsey and Company based on one study. I actually talked to the person who did the study. That study claimed that ANY training beyond HS qualified as post-secondary education. When I mentioned that many service sector jobs don’t even require a HS education this person said that even a janitor required PS education. When I asked what she meant she said a janitorial job would require a few hours of training to know how to mix chemicals! True story. McKinsey is full of it.

  7. Submitted by Jerilyn Jackson on 06/21/2013 - 04:46 pm.

    I don’t blame the colleges for being resistant to turning anything over to yet another education reform group, in fact I say good for them. There are far too many “education reformers” out there whose true agenda is to attack public schools with the purpose of weakening them (at least in the court of public opinion) and then claim that privatization is the solution. The push to hold teachers and their unions solely responsible for students struggles is the latest tactic in this effort. A group whose intention is to “provide an alternative voice to existing teacher organizations” would seem to fit right into this agenda.

    And really, blaming colleges for “churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in the classroom…? In how many professions do first year workers thrive right out of the gate? Anyone knows a tremendous amount of learning and acquisition of skills occurs in the beginning of any career. Why would you expect it to be any different for public school teachers. That’s why mentorship programs are so important.

    Let’s see this for what it really is.

  8. Submitted by Jim Mork on 06/21/2013 - 07:24 pm.

    Don’t Blame “The Schools”

    It is generations since society has put the supreme value on education that existed before World War II. A dumb society can’t expect schools to make up for shallow values. The schools are being made scapegoat for shallow social values. The two things are inimical. If you value education, don’t hammer the schools, live life as if education mattered. Give away or junk your TV. Take the smartphones away from your kids. Sell the game console. Act like you put all the distractions a distant second. A society that flinches from this doesn’t deserve high-performing kids.

  9. Submitted by Ross Reishus on 06/23/2013 - 08:37 am.

    Just the facts, ma’am. PLEASE.

    The alleged report, “A Nation At Risk,” which most failed national and state education reform policies have been based on (ever since), ignored a lot of facts in the first place. Too many to mention here. The “report” has been the bases for the growing crescendo of attacks on all things public schools, having little to do with actual education reform. It spawned the phony and disingenuously named, “No Child Left Behind” movement which turned out to, once again, simply be an attack on public schools and teacher unions. And in this day and age of woefully inept media reporting, the entire concept of education research has been replaced with cherry picked 4 star criteria and bogus rating systems that attempt (badly) to assess something that cannot be summed up with a convenient four point push poll. All valid education research gets thrown out the window. But that’s the way privateers would have it, and they are unrelenting enough to convince a weary public, tired of the rants, to actually believe some of the claptrap. To answer those who continue the charge that Minnesota is bad with minority success numbers I say two things. 1. When they were last in power, the MN GOP was trying to ax the additional funding for the schools with the 3 highest concentrations of minorities in the state. Funding that was specifically there to help the school manage the high % minorities and struggling class students. That attempt in my opinion points to the raging undercurrent of racism thats sadly alive and well in MN, its also a prime example of attacking public schools for the sake of private tax breaks. For as long as these two conditions exist, you won’t see much progress on that front. 2. The single biggest factor in a young person’s education, is their socio-economic status. And there is nothing a school can do about that, except ask for extra funding that would help (see #1) but not fix the situation. But socio-economic status is a phrase you won’t hear from the Tea-Party conservatives, since they are waging a simultaneous war on the poor, while also attacking the poor’s only chance of getting out of poverty. A free education. Nothing makes a CEO’s blood boil more than the idea of their workers and customers being highly educated. That idea is bad for profits. So the audacity of our government to provide a free education (K-12) and to subsidize public colleges just grinds a privateer’s gears. Hence the current attacks on food stamps, public programs, etc from the conservative political right.

    The other point is the hypocrisy of expecting universities to hand over what, in industry terms would be considered “trade secrets.” Trade secrets are to be kept by their industry owners, according to GOP law. Meanwhile Republicans under the Pawlenty regime would have you believe that schools should all have to compete with each other, which is another way of making it harder for schools to do their jobs in the first place, but Pawlenty got a good chuckle out of it. So under the current mantra of competition is good, the same rules are not applied to the private companies that want free money to further expand a hospital or build a stadium. And God forbid we ask the Mayo Clinic to divulge all of their methods so that the info can either be publicized here and in other media sources, or be secretly sold to their competitors, or worse, trotted out in sound bytes taken out of context that suddenly give the appearance of malfeasance, even when there is none. This last statement, is what certain reporters and the NCTQ is really looking for. They’re looking for just enough information to cherry pick and take sound bytes from the university education systems, in order to publicly lynch them.

  10. Submitted by Joanne Simons on 06/23/2013 - 03:50 pm.

    Ratings ridiculous

    From Diane Ravitch’s recent post: “Richard Allington is a well-known scholar of reading. These are his comments on the NCTQ report in teacher preparation institutions.

    ‘Imagine a person reviews the restaurants in your city by examining the menus they found on-line. Never tasted the food or ever visited any restaurant. How seriously would you take the reviews that were written? That is the NCTQ report on colleges of education. Had NCTQ not already developed a reputation for sloppy “research” perhaps ed schools would have cooperated. Personally, I’m glad they didn’t.'”

    This authors of this so-called “report” used catalogue descriptions and course syllabi to “rate” teaching programs. It should be discarded as the junk it is, certainly not cited as anything resembling reality.

  11. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/23/2013 - 08:49 pm.

    You’ve heard it before

    …but the criticisms are not new, nor are the defenses and responses.

    Much educational “research” is essentially horsefeathers, to use as polite a term as I can manage, and that certainly applies to “A Nation At Risk.” Beyond that, much of what others have already said is right on the mark. In what other occupation is one expected to be a genuine master as soon as the degree is conferred? There are reasons — very good reasons — why doctors serve residencies, for example. Taxes, engineering, upholstery, cooking, you name it. Everyone who aspires to professional status serves an apprenticeship, and the only apprenticeships worth serving are based on genuine involvement in the field, including learning what makes a success as well as what makes for failure.

    My own “you’ve heard it before” remains. We’re not talking about a *teacher* achievement gap. It’s a *student* achievement gap that has thoughtful people concerned, as they should be. When students are failing, poor teaching may, indeed, be a part of the problem, but crucifying teachers in general is analogous to crucifying the physicians whose patients become morbidly obese. The physicians’ time with the patient is limited by cost, and they have little or no control over the patient’s life and/or life choices outside the office, much like the teacher’s classroom contact with a student. Ultimately, it’s the student’s choice and responsibility to take advantage of the educational opportunity being offered.

    And I only rarely disagree with Beth’s typically thoughtful approach to describing issues related to education, but in this case, I think she loaded the dice in at least one meaningful way. Unless all that I’ve read about this has been fabricated, the state’s Board of Teaching did NOT vote to deny TFA a variance enabling its corps members to teach. What the State Board denied was a *blanket* variance for *all* TFA candidates. Certification, if I understand it correctly, was to be determined on an individual basis — precisely the sort of standard used by a rational school district in determining whether or not to hire a “regular” teacher. This is *not* the same thing as “denying” TFA candidates the ability to teach while qualifying for a full teacher’s license.

    As a society, a century and a half after teaching began to be regarded, at least in some circles, as a “profession,” we still haven’t decided if that’s the proper label. Most of the societies currently beating our brains out in academic terms, at least in K-12, are societies that long ago decided teachers really were professionals, entitled to professional pay, working conditions, and to having a sizable influence on the standards for their profession, as well as the application of those standards. Here, while families and communities often make individual exceptions, teachers as a group are too often dismissed, intellectually and literally, as if they were stoop labor. Given the qualifications required for the job, teaching pays less than most other professions, teachers typically have little control over their work environment, and teaching standards and their application are, more often than not, determined by people who are egregious amateurs in the realm of educational policy-setting. Many have never taught a K-12 class, or did so decades ago in an era largely forgotten, and in many ways no longer relevant.

    If teaching is profession, suggesting that people can become successful practitioners after 5 weeks’ training is beyond laughable. It’s an insult. If it’s *not* a profession, then discard the current standards and let anyone who seems fit for the job, based on their interview with the principal and/or faculty most directly affected, become a teacher without reference to licensure or other qualifications. Tenure is crucial to intellectual honesty and genuine education, but it can’t be based entirely on seniority.

    Personally, I think good teaching is an art form. Some people have the talent. Some do not. Even the most pedestrian can learn quite a number of useful skills – in teacher training courses, for instance – to improve their classroom performance, but skills are not synonymous with talent, and the really good teachers combine content and theatricality in ways that consistently engage students, and in ways that can’t be duplicated by only mastering content, or by only providing a creative environment.

  12. Submitted by Jim Mork on 06/24/2013 - 05:47 pm.

    What Is Need for TFA?

    Is it that colleges are turning out grads for which the economy has no need and so this TFA artificially manufactures jobs for them? I have a friend who graduated from U of M’s school of education and has wanted a job for a long time. She hasn’t found one available. It makes me wonder if there’s any shortage of qualified trained teachers? If there isn’t, why was this program even started? To find a way to jam them in somewhere to save someone from the embarrassment of admitting they wasted money when jobs weren’t there is dumb. My brother ran a lineman school in a tech college south of the Twin Cities. It had an industry advisory board, and his complaint was that even the companies on the board weren’t hiring his trainees. That’s a pretty general problem. Someone has a brilliant notion for training but fails to insure it meets a genuine need of society.

  13. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 06/25/2013 - 04:48 pm.


    You’re right, of course. The schools that have extended job offers to TFA recruits can begin applying for individual variances on July 1. The Minnesota Department of Education has promised expedited handling. Many of the schools begin their years in the beginning of August. 

    I do think it’s also worth repeating: The recruits who go into districts with collective bargaining agreements will become union members and will be paid accordingly. They must also have passed the same licensure exam as any other teacher.     

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