House on Fire

From the NY Times:

“There is almost universal agreement that the current system is broken,” said Thomas W. Lyons III, a member of the American Education Association’s Task Force on the Future of Teacher Education.

and

Ed Schools need to have far more practical training and closer ties to the profession. That has led a number of schools to choose deans from within the profession, like Mr. Allard, rather than from academia.

and

One group that came under frequent attack at the meeting here was tenured professors, who were criticized as having high pay, low productivity and a remote relationship with the practice of teaching. Robert L. Weinberg, a retired teacher recognized as one of the best in the nation, and a lecturer at George Washington University, said that instead of restricting the number of adjunct lecturers like himself, Ed Schools ought to greatly increase them because they bring real-world examples to students.

Wow.

Oh wait.

This story wasn't about ed schools at all. It's about law schools. I changed a few words for dramatic effect.

The real quotes were:

“There is almost universal agreement that the current system is broken,” said Thomas W. Lyons III, a Rhode Island lawyer and a member of the American Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education.

and

...Law schools need to have far more practical training and closer ties to the legal profession. That has led a number of schools to choose deans from within the profession, like Mr. Allard, rather than from academia.

and

One group that came under frequent attack at the meeting here was tenured law school professors, who were criticized as having high pay, low productivity and a remote relationship with the practice of law. Robert L. Weinberg, a retired founding partner of the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly and a lecturer at George Washington University Law School, said that instead of restricting the number of adjunct lecturers like himself, law schools ought to greatly increase them because they bring real-world examples to students.

Also this:

As the meeting ended, one task force member, Michael P. Downey of St. Louis, summed it up. “The house is on fire,” he said. “We don’t want a report that sits on a shelf.”

And this:

...Critics are increasingly saying that the legal academy cannot solve its own problems, partly because of the vested interests of tenured professors tied to an antiquated system. Effective solutions, they insist, will have to be imposed from the outside.

Since law schools are regulated by state courts, that means convincing top state judges of the necessity of major change.

I know a decent number of ed school deans who privately say they would like to radically change their teacher prep programs. I assume they're not typical, but nor are they unique.

1. They're limited by their faculty, many of whom don't agree that their programs should change.

2. They deans are also restricted by 3 sets of regulators: state Ed Departments, NCATE, and regional accreditation organizations (whose approval is needed for all federal loans and grants).

3. Yet they feel pinned and mostly remain mum. The deans say if they even begin to lobby the regulators to permit big change, they'd likely alienate their own faculty, and if they did so aggressively, possibly end up on the receiving end of a no confidence vote.

My view:

1. Lighter regulations

Empirically, we really don't know "what works." Talked to a dean recently from Pennsylvania who described how the state had just added a bunch of new regulations for teacher prep, on top of a bunch of old ones. That's crazy.

2. Greater transparency of outcomes

Easy to understand job results. Common satisfaction survey among all alumni, making it easy to compare. Test score data where available, like here.

If we did that:

*Easier for future teachers to choose which teacher prep program delivers the results they want.

*Easier for the best schoolteachers to be hired as valued adjunct professors.

*Easier for policymakers and reformers to notice standouts and laggards, and call attention to them.

*Easier for any teacher prep program to learn from others.

With my charter school hat on, it's easy for our team to say "Hey, wow, kids at North Star Charter School in Newark really did great on Advanced Placement exams. Let's hop on a train and learn what happens there."

By contrast...

...with my ed school hat on, it's hard for our team to say "Hey, wow, teachers who graduate from XYZ Ed School are particularly good at ABC." Nobody knows who excels at what.