Is teacher education broken? Can it be improved? Will government help?

Is teacher education broken? That depends on your perspective. I see teacher education as a part of an ailing and corrupt political and economic system that is blaming many of the problems policy makers have failed to address in society, such a poverty and inequity, on education in general. Many of the claims of a broken teacher education system and the proposals to fix it are not supported by experience or scientific evidence. Can teacher education be improved? It must, but its welfare cannot be separated from the other communities and institutions of which it is a part.

I have been engaged in trying to improve teacher education for many years and offer this paper as but one more attempt to do so. It is but a small effort to look at teacher education in a way that is thoughtful, fair and considerate so that it may fulfill its mission better. I hope that it manifests the spirit of philanthropy, cooperation and humility so that we can find some unity among our diversity of views to advance teacher education. This unity in diversity will serve as the engine for ongoing development. For those interested in a deeper more extensive treatment of this topic, you may contact me ( for a free copy of my book, Truth, Love and Justice: A New Paradigm for Education and Its Reform.

As teacher education adjusts to new needs and challenges, better ways of preparing teachers should be developed and tested. This improvement and reform should be an ongoing process, our modus operandi. However, change should be based on collaboration using sound knowledge and practice, not through the imposed ideological positions of either entrenched teacher educators or those with political and economic power.

The recent policy reform process is partly a backlash to perceived liberal changes introduced into schools in the 1960’s (Evans, 2011). Federal and state officials have promoted these ideas in their educational policies, such as alternative routes to certification, standardized testing, merit pay and teacher evaluations tied to student performance. Many states recently changed their laws to align with the above policies in attempts to improve their chance of getting some of the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) funding. The federal RTTT competition was very effective in pushing through educational policies that would have not happened otherwise, even in those states that were not selected for funding. As with other reforms that are attached to funding, the policies may be bad, but the money is so attractive that principles are compromised.

These are examples of a growing trend of damaging changes to educational policy coming from politicians, policies encouraged by the corporate community who stand to benefit financially from the privatization of education. New rules relax the state standards for obtaining a teaching certificate and eliminate quality assurances, standards and expectations found in the “old and traditional” university based teacher education programs for the “new and improved, quick and easy” alternative route preparation for certification of teachers, educational administrators and other educational personnel. They also reduce effectiveness measures primarily to narrow and superficial test scores.

Federal and state governments have moved ahead their education reform agenda aggressively and effectively with little or no input from teacher educators. These new policies serve neither the best interests of the people nor the stated intentions of the politicians. Our future depends on our political, economic, social and moral systems working together to face the increasingly complex and interconnected problems of society. These systems affect teacher education, and, in turn, are affected by it. We can reform teacher education and education, but it will not solve our political or economic problems. Even if they could, the policies currently being implemented by leaders will harm the state of education and the ability of teacher education to fulfill its mission.



About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is professor emeritus, School of Education, Northern Michigan University.
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6 Responses to Is teacher education broken? Can it be improved? Will government help?

  1. wingeyes says:

    Yes it is quite good, except the whole “write to your representative” bit as a solution. I also recommend the wasteland, which is related to art and community development but it’s also quite interesting.

  2. rodclarken says:

    Thanks for encouraging me to watch “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” I enjoyed it and went on to watch “The Lottery” which is very similar. They did get their points across well and I admit I am more sympathetic to charters after seeing these films. Like any media, they presented their point of view and I think they did it well and not as biased as I was lead to believe.

  3. wingeyes says:

    You know, I really liked the idea that educational systems in the future need to be similar to the cycles of growth , containing reflection and action without an “ends” and free of the constraints of limited testing materials which limit people’s potential and diverse modes of learning. It’s so true that the problem with education is part of a bigger problem. Did you ever see the film waiting for superman? While it does not offer concrete solutions and is a bit passive it does offer an interesting perspective to american school systems.
    I had the fortune of being a managing editor for educational content with a huge amount of teachers and writers and I found that a lot of teachers wish to be creative , to flourish and empower themselves but feel constrained under the current antiquated system. It is also interesting to see that we confine our educational model to the state and country we are in….

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