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Breaking Down The Ivory Tower

University of Virginia Assistant Professor Patrice Grimes, with students Sarah Morgan of Alexandria and Kristin Hartway of Stafford, teaches how to use technology when leading social studies courses.
University of Virginia Assistant Professor Patrice Grimes, with students Sarah Morgan of Alexandria and Kristin Hartway of Stafford, teaches how to use technology when leading social studies courses. (The Washington Post)

Levine found bright spots in the ed school landscape. He praised the five-year teacher education program at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education. The U-Va. students get several chances to teach as undergraduates and spend the fall of their fifth-year teaching full time.

But Levine said ed schools are often cash cows for universities, collecting tuition from students who can be taught on the cheap. Unlike medical schools, they don't need expensive equipment or highly paid specialist professors.

Levine also concluded that ed schools that grant doctorates have a stronger track record than those that don't. The latter schools, which award degrees no higher than the master's level, produce most of the nation's teachers. According to the study, public school students demonstrate significantly more growth in math achievement and somewhat more growth in reading achievement when their teachers came from doctoral universities. Levine proposed expanding teacher training programs at those universities, which are more expensive and selective.

Sharon P. Robinson, president and chief executive of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said that proposal was off-base.

"We need to be more inclusive than that," she said in a statement. "Like other professions, education must rely more heavily on the less selective institutions to build the bulk of its workforce."

Said Thomas Powell, president of Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg: "We want to go after students who are from neighborhoods where we want to have teachers." Powell said he wanted to offer them good liberal arts courses, good courses in their specialty subjects and good teaching skills.

Arthur E. Wise, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, dismissed Levine's accusation that his organization did not pay enough attention to how well each education school's graduates perform in the classroom. He said that Levine's data were old and that his organization now requires ed schools to "provide proof that candidates have gained the knowledge and skills to help all students learn."

But Wise endorsed Levine's view that ed schools should borrow a page from medical schools by attaching themselves to public schools with well-trained, veteran teachers just as medical schools attach themselves to hospitals with time-tested doctors. This would, Wise said, "provide a structured environment to better prepare candidates and new teachers for today's schools and the diverse children in them."


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