Memo From Milwaukee

This Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article is an excellent overview of the key issues in teacher preparation (and the "comments section" of the article is an excellent cross-section of why this topic gets people really worked up). Key nuggets:

Alverno College, the small women's college on Milwaukee's south side, has been widely cited as a national model for training teachers, thanks to its combination of clinical and classroom experience and use of video and other tools to evaluate whether graduates are meeting the standards for what makes a good teacher.

How cool is that? Have you ever heard of Alverno College? Me neither. Sounds good. Is it really? Can't wait to see their Vanderbilt-like "Ed School report card" -- if one is ever created.

Are you wondering what Alverno's mascot (pictured) is? I know you are.

The Blaze.

Anyway, the article hits on the never-ending theme of Ed School alums who end up teaching in high-poverty schools:

Most often lacking, recent graduates say: teaching how to manage a classroom full of children and provide instruction for students at different academic levels.

"There isn't a class that says Classroom Management 101," said Tess Wielochowski, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Lincoln Intermediate School in West Allis, who recently graduated from Alverno after transferring from UWM's School of Education. "You're just thrown in there and expected to manage a room."

Our program actually has precisely Classroom Management 101. Actually it's 110. I'm not sure why.

The good news? I'm at a conference right now of teacher prep programs. It's run by Carnegie Foundation and New Schools Venture Fund. The group of 30 or so is a handful of cutting edge Ed Schools legitimately looking to change, and some alternate providers and teacher residencies like ours (also looking to change).

I'm increasingly hear the heads of these programs acknowledge classroom management is a critical topic. Yay!

(The old story, and probably the one that still pervades in most teacher prep programs, is that if you have a good lesson plan, kids will behave beautifully; or that classroom management is really a matter of personal preference; or that classroom management is so context specific it's not teachable).

The next step, I believe, would be for teacher prep programs to move past knowing classroom management strategies, and requiring trainees to show mastery of those moves.

Research is sparse on the type of program that can create a teacher with high student achievement results.

True that. Which means my beliefs above cannot, as yet, be empirically proven. That is, nobody can yet prove or disprove whether mastery of classroom management moves is correlated with kids who learn more.

The problem is that it can be difficult to tell who will be a good teacher until that person has a chance in the classroom, said Arthur Levine, former president of Columbia University's Teachers College and now president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

Also true. Leading to a challenge: how long should that chance last?

*For whatever reason, the MJS has really exceptional coverage of K-12 issues in their city. One of the best pieces of K-12 journalism I've seen was Alan Borsuk's 7-day series about the Milwaukee school voucher system back in 2005.