The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Yes, teacher-preparation programs need to be fixed — but more than 350 education leaders say reforms are ‘making things worse’


An alliance of more than 350 deans and other leaders in the field of teacher education issued a major new statement saying many teacher-preparation programs in this country are not working well but that some key efforts to reform them are only “making things worse.”

The statement, titled “Seven Trends in U.S. Teacher Education, and the Need to Address Systemic Injustices,” looks at trends in teacher-education reform. It finds they all focus on incentives and other market-oriented approaches that do not address systemic inequities, and they lack a research base. It says:

Without a doubt, teacher-education programs cannot and should not operate as if all is well, because it is not. Several current efforts to reform teacher education in the United States, however, are making things worse. Although stemming from a wide range of actors (including the federal government, state governments, and advocacy organizations), these trends share a fundamental flaw: They focus on “thin” equity.

Here are seven trends examined in the statement, some of which, it says, “have already proven to widen disparities.”

  • “Marketizing” teacher education in the hopes that competition and more alternatives will spur self-improvement.
  • Shaming teacher education in the hopes failing grades will spur self-improvement.
  • Externally regulating teacher education at the federal level with statistically faulty methods for program evaluation.
  • Externally regulating teacher education at the state level with increased program-entrance requirements that hinder diversity without improving teacher quality.
  • Internally regulating teacher education with accreditation that relies on problematic standards and use of data.
  • Assessing teacher candidates with problematic instruments and ways of using them.
  • Prescribing practices that too narrowly define the outcomes for students and teachers.

The statement was written by the Education Deans for Justice and Equity group, which was formed in 2016 as an alliance of deans to address inequities and injustices in education, prepared in partnership with the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Here’s the statement in full: