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Student teaching criticized in new study; schools of education fire back

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Knowing the subject matter is all well and good, but one skill that many new teachers lack as they embark on their first year of teaching is how to control a classroom, or so say many critics of teacher education. This critical skill along with the other practical aspects of teaching — how to teach a new concept to a room of students with varying levels of ability, and then make sure they all understood, for example — aren’t typically figured out until teachers try out the book-learning they do in their courses in an actual classroom. For most teachers, this first attempt is during their student teaching.

A new study by the National Council on Teacher Quality out this week finds fault with the way many schools of education run their student teaching programs, however. Among other issues, the NCTQ criticizes a common set up in many teacher training programs where schools, not the colleges, get to pick which mentor teachers will get student teachers assigned to them. (The NCTQ would prefer that schools of education pick the teacher mentors.) It also points out that often these mentors aren’t required to be highly qualified or good at mentoring.

“While we certainly identified some exemplary institutions, this review suggests that all too often, too many elements of student teaching are left to chance,” the report said.

Schools of education have criticized the NCTQ’s assessment, however, saying the data they used to examine the schools was flawed or incomplete. Here’s Sharon P. Robinson, president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, responding in a New York Times article.

“A school can lose points for not having absolute control over the selection of the cooperation teacher,” Robinson said. “But we think these clinical experiences should be crafted in partnership with the schools, not dictated by either the principal or the education school.”

For more reaction to the report, also see this article in Inside Higher Ed.

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