Sandra Stotsky, Professor Emerita, is a great crusader against Common Core. I know she has not meant it that way, but this article is an excellent illustration of how education has rotted in the last 40-80 years, as the feds and the progressives have taken it over.
This article presents 7 points under What Can States Do?
I can only draw on my experience as a student preparing for a degree in physics and a teaching certificate in physics and math, back in the dark ages before federal aid to local schools, and later as a teacher, researcher, instructor and writer.
Yes, back in those days we already had “teacher colleges,” with a reputation of attracting only the bottom tier of college students. In the elitist snobbish environment that we all know colleges and universities to be, “real” teachers came not from teacher colleges but from university departments of education.
The same elitist snobbish attitude caused a divide even within a university department of education. Yes, there were degree programs in education, but the “real” and most highly recruited teachers came from other departments, NOT education. WHY? Because someone had figured out that before you can teach anything, you have to know it, and that it no harder to teach a non-ed major to teach than to expect an ed major to become a subject matter expert. On average. But it did not stop there.
In those days the system was also very hard nosed about teachers wanting to keep their job and hoping to achieve TENURE; they had better get their MASTERS degree, in some academic and demanding area related to their field, at their own expense, and within 5 years of getting their first job. Otherwise they were “let go.” (And still there was no shortage of very good teachers.)
Yes, just like a great salesmen can sell anything, great teachers can teach anything; teaching is a skill in itself, independent of the subject matter. .
Yes, it is very difficult to entice non-ed majors into teaching. The elitism and snobbishness produced another dictum — Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Can’t, Teach. Most people want to believe they can, and see teaching as a poor second choice.
I’ve done both, and in graduate school I learned another truism — you don’t really learn anything until you have to teach it. That is why, in those old times, all graduate students were required to work as teaching assistants.
Where this leaves us is that to replace Common Core we have to go back to the days when excellence was not an empty buzzword.
As to Sandra Stotsky’s 7 points,
1. A state can raise the bar for admission into a teacher preparation program.
Yes, do raise the bar for EVERYBODY, not just for applicants for an education major.
In fact, eliminate all “education” majors in college. For those who want to teach, run a certification program similar to a minor or a second major. There is no need for abominations such as “math for psych majors,” or “math for liberal arts majors,” or “English for engineers,” and their even more watered-down equivalents for “education majors.” The textbooks in the specific subjects do a good enough job of illustrating how math is applicable to their field, and the textbook itself is THE example of the English they’ll have to know.
2. A state can require a Master of Arts or Science degree in a subject taught in K-12 before admission to any program for school administrators.
No, ALL teachers need their masters degree in the SUBJECT MATTER they teach. Applicants should be required to have been teaching for many years before being considered for an administrator position.
As to specific course work in administration, isn’t that what they teach in a College of Business Administration…? All of our problems with all levels and functions of government are magically coincident with the rise of “public administration” as an area of “study” deserving of separate degree programs in our universities. There is no excuse for making a distinction for administering different specific bureaucracies. What’s next, doctorates in small business, large business, school, university, DMV, health care exchange, VA, DoD, BLM administration? How absurd are we going to get?
3. A state can require a Master of Arts or Science degree in a subject taught in K-12 before admission to a doctoral program in curriculum and instruction.
No, before letting anybody loose in the fields of curriculum (design) and instruction (methods), the candidates should be required to have been teaching for many years.
4. A state can require applicants to doctoral programs in educational leadership or public policy to demonstrate their ability to locate and analyze a body of research evidence supporting a current major policy.
No, there is NO excuse for anything like this perverse nonsense of a Ph.D. in “educational leadership” or “public policy.” Good grief! If you have a Ph.D., you are required not to merely LOCATE relevant research but to PRODUCE it…
The real question that is being evaded is, why do we need to do research in a profession that is several thousands of years old? WHAT in the areas of “policy,” administration, curriculum and instruction deserve or require a doctoral program? After several thousand years of running schools of all sorts, don’t we know yet WHY we teach, HOW to run a school, WHAT to teach, HOW to teach?
5. A state can train prospective secondary teachers under the aegis of the academic discipline they major in.
Yes, teachers must know the subject matter they teach… The best way to ensure subject matter knowledge is to take subject matter courses from the subject matter (or “major”) departments.
6. A state can train prospective pre-school, kindergarten, and primary grade teachers in two- or three-year pedagogical institutes.
No, teaching in kindergarten and early elementary grades may not be as challenging academically as later grades, but the teachers must be knowledgeable about early childhood development to a greater depth and extent than teachers in the later grades, because it is at this early age that children grow and change at the fastest rate.
7. A state can require discipline-based faculty as well as pedagogical faculty to supervise student teachers.
No, if potential teachers take the same subject matter courses as subject-matter majors, then the academic supervision of their progress is automatic. After that, experienced teachers can oversee and guide their pedagogic development.
But the problem here is that the whole thing is needlessly hyper-intellectualized. Moms and dads are proving to be perfectly adequate at home schooling, and home schoolers regularly outperform “normal” students by all measures. Curriculum design is as simple as being handed a (good) textbook and told to teach it. The teaching profession is a mystery only to those who have not learned anything from several thousand years of experience.
What we need instead of Common Core (and Pearson, Coleman, Gates,.. and 0bama) is a program of instruction based on a solid program such as E.D. Hirsch’s What Your … Grader Needs To Know, and textbooks familiar to home schoolers such as John Saxon’s Algebra 1 and Algebra 2.