Teaching with Primary Sources
The Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges & Universities


Teaching and Learning with Primary Sources:
Research and Practice

A Publication of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities TPS Project

Issue 2, February 2010

1. How things have changed as a result of the NCLB and NCATE?

Sherrie Pardieck, Bradley University: I do believe that many things have changed since ISBE, NCLB, and NCATE were established. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) presents recommendations and establishes a guideline for teaching in the classrooms. My personal experience has been with the teaching of reading. I participated in the Literacy Meetings with the ISBE. It was a great way to network with college professors across the state. There was a lot of problem solving with the teaching of reading and language arts, as well as identification of factors that influence teaching and learning. Unfortunately, the state ran out of money and we do not have meetings and none are slated for the future.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was a very good idea, however it was not fully prepared for educators and administrators to use. An example that I would like to share came from the Sunday, November 1, 2009 newspaper. In the newspaper, schools were listed as not making progress. Since schools are being closed in the Peoria area, it is important to identify schools that are not making progress. However, if you look at the numbers, the schools raised their scores from the previous year. One school was listed as "Top Five Biggest-Decline" for 2009. This particular school had a good record with their scores until this past year. Within the year, their school experienced a devastating fire. All of the teachers, students, administrators were sent to a recently closed school. Their ISAT score dropped substantially from 82% in 2008 to 69.9% in 2009. Nothing was mentioned about the displacement of the school's population within the article.

NCATE is both a positive and a negative for teacher educators. The positive is that they assist institutions of education to review and revamp their programs as time progresses. The negative is all of the manpower and resources that it takes to go through accreditation.

David McMullen, Bradley University: My perception is that NCLB, while enacted with good intentions, has not improved education. NCLB has created a shift from teaching the discipline of a subject to teaching what is needed to succeed on a standardized test. When I think back to my own school experiences, I remember getting immersed in the subject at hand. For example my middle school mathematics teacher, Mrs. Wright, used games and math puzzles to teach us the mathematics we needed to learn. We got so into the games that we often invented our own and shared them with the class. Mathematics was not the "drill and kill" test preparation I see today in my observations as a university supervisor - it was actually fun! My middle school social studies teacher, Mr. Powers, taught us about the world, how events are connected, and how to make sense of different viewpoints. He also planted the seed for my lifelong interest in history. In science class, Mrs. Ciegler emphasized learning through experiments. We had time to create our own science fair project during class time and learn first hand how scientists work and think. Today, in my observations in the schools I see very little experimentation as science has been reduced to learning the facts. I am in favor of the spirit of NCLB - that of reaching out to every student and providing the opportunity for the student to succeed. However, I do not concur with NCLB's definition of success.

NCATE has been an enormous burden on teacher education faculty. It has devoured time which could be better devoted to teaching, research and service. That said, it is still important to conduct program review and get an external opinion of how the program is meeting its goals. It is my hope that as the NCATE process evolves it will become less punitive and more developmental providing meaningful feedback to improve the education of future teachers.

Mark Newman, National-Louis University: In many respects, the changes caused by NCLB and NCATE are also consequences of technology developments. Having the capability to gather information, massive amount so fit, the stress has been on doing so. At issue is whether we need all that data and also whether the information gathered is pertinent to improving education. A third issue concerns analysis and that, of course, is very subjective and often incomplete. In my mind, NCLB was the culmination of the decades-long accountability movement and NCATE follows that trend.

Both have had positive and negative impacts, but neither has truly recognized the massive shift in educational research, demographics, the costs of a very human enterprise, or the need for carefully thought out and well conceived plans. As Sherrie and Dave have noted, NCLB had good intentions, but it was just one of many less well-thought out and certainly less well-implemented plans.

Probably the most positive impact has been to make use more aware of our own strengths and issues as well as making us more proactive to external influences. Negatively, it has made use slotted and niched into a test-driven, standards-blindered assembly line that focuses solely on numbers instead of using more robust and comprehensive measures.

Xiuwen Wu, National-Louis University: When I ponder on the acronym of NCLB, I want to see in my mind’s eye happy children going to schools everyday eager to discover new knowledge. Another ideal portrait of NCLB is that, regardless of their race, ethnicity, social economic status, and cultural and linguistic backgrounds, they are all taught by highly qualified teachers and make steady progress towards future success.

But in reality, what loom large in people’s conversations about NCLB are these words: “accountability,” “Consequence,” “Probation,” and “AYP.” How much things have changed and how much the achievement gap has closed as a result of NCLB remains to be seen. I do know that public school teachers and administrators nowadays live with a bigger fear than ever of their schools being put on probation, restructured, or closed. They worry about the results of standardized tests, a key indicator of whether or not their schools are making the Annual Yearly Progress. Some schools, especially those with very diverse populations, are pressured to teach to the test.

Most attention has been given to improving reading and math scores. Students are receiving less amount of social studies instruction or none at all.

In my work with one Chicago public school, I have come to know two students bussed to that school from another one that was quite a distance away. I noticed these two African American as they usually hung out with each other and both had a learning disability. The teacher said to me one day: “they are NCLB kids”. She worried about the increasing classroom size (33 students) and that these kids may lower the school’s average scores. I worry about other things: What about other kids who had not had the opportunity to be transferred to a better school? What about these two students who found themselves in a strange new school with few friends?

Flipping over to Higher education, I would say NCATE and NCLB are pushing National-Louis University (NLU) to examine the ways it is preparing future teachers who are capable of teaching diverse learners. NCATE has been a useful way for the NLU community to rely on a variety of data sources to conduct self-assessments on the effectiveness of its programs.

Sherrie Pardieck, Bradley University: I do agree with Xiuwen in reference to all educators should be prepared to work with diverse learners. However, as I work with my professional development school, Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center I see so much effort that is invested into NCLB with new programs. The District mandated programs, as Mark referred to is making the focus totally data driven in order to not close the schools. All of the teachers, within this school, are used to professional development. Professional development for teachers was a basis for beginning the school. Teachers are prepared to invest much time with implementation, evaluation, and the refining of new programs through professional development time provided during the school year. Within that last two years there has been the initiation of the: Creative Curriculum, Response to Intervention, Social Emotional Curriculum, motivational programs of Fish Philosophy and then the 21 Keys, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, Universal Screener, Nature Curriculum, National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation, etc. I see teachers struggling to get everything to work on all programs and still try to provide quality learning experiences for all children.

Irv Epstein Illinois Wesleyan University: I believe that NCLB and NCATE represent a fundamental, long-term shift in the way in which teachers and teacher training is conceived. The lack of trust, and lack of autonomy afforded to teacher training institutions in the name of standardization represents a larger effort to de-skill teachers. Teacher work is neither understood nor respected. Thus, the presumed need to control teacher behavior, even in the induction stage, leads to the imposition of policies embedded in NCLB and NCATE that are overly prescriptive, intrusive, time-consuming, and costly.

2. What else is influencing change?

David McMullen, Bradley University:
I believe a major factor influencing change today is the current economic situation. Schools are cutting budgets, increasing class size, hiring fewer teachers and in some cases actually cutting staff. This has a demoralizing effect on our preservice teachers who are about to enter the job market. It also creates anxiety among in-service teachers who are worried about losing a job or being "relocated" to another school. Just today I heard from a 2006 graduate who was the victim of budget cutting at her school and is once again job searching.

Sherrie Pardieck, Bradley University: I agree with David that the economy has a major impact on schools and schooling today. The areas that have the high revenues are doing well during this recession, but the low income areas are being forced to make decisions that directly connect to daily budgets. We will start to see more and more school buildings going into decay, more school closures, less materials provided for students' learning, and no professional development for teachers.

However, I attended a conference last Friday which started me thinking about this question. The presenter said that the medical field is professional and makes their own decisions and policies. She then stated that the education profession has been unionized and in so doing, policies, funding, programs, and regulations are dictated to our profession, not by our profession.

Mark Newman, National-Louis University: I echo the economic influences but also see positive changes possible due to advances in research and accommodating our increasingly diverse populations. Technology also has caused many changes but its unreliability and fragility make me wary. The promise is there but realizing that promise seems remote for now. A further change is the decline of the humanities in stature but a growing protest a movement against that decline. We live in flux and that flux is promoting change.

Xiuwen Wu, National-Louis University: A potential new trend is to tie teacher’s performance to their pay. I read a recent Chicago Tribune article entitled “Grading Teachers: Student Performance Counts in Schools’ New Scoring Plan.” The article mentioned school districts beginning to track the test scores of students and use that information to decide on individual teachers’ pay. This emerging trend is another offshoot effect of NCLB. It is a controversial practice in that some schools might only use standardized scores as an indicator of teacher performance without giving teachers the right levels of professional development support to help them grow and excel and taking into consideration the complexity of teaching.

There is an expansion of alternative certification programs characterized by partnerships between school districts and teacher education programs. I believe that this movement is pose a great challenge for teacher education programs to take a more innovative and flexible stance towards course delivery and field experience supervision methods.

Irving Epstein, Illinois Wesleyan University: Because teacher work is misunderstood, educational reform an easy target for politicians seeking to gain political support. At the same time, the faculty at large state operated Schools of Education, do themselves few favors by embracing standards based curricula with an obnoxious number of content and performance indicators, so as to affirm the importance of their own expertise. It is ironic and sad that as student populations are becoming more diverse in every dimension of the term, the formal educational response is one of standardization.

3. What are you trying to accomplish in your classes? What type of teachers are you trying to prepare and how are you doing it?

David McMullen, Bradley University:
Put simply, the teacher education program at Bradley University is working to produce teachers who are educational leaders, advocates for students and lifelong learners. We encourage our teacher candidates to get involved in professional organizations and serve as leaders when possible. We also help them to become leaders in the classroom through modeling by faculty and practice in field experiences. We stress the importance of being an advocate for students and helping each student to reach his or her potential. We get our teacher candidates involved in research and presentations and emphasize the need for lifelong learning.

Xiuwen Wu, National-Louis University: Students at National College of Education at NLU come from a wide range of backgrounds. Our job is to impress on them the need for flexibility in their teaching—the “No size fits all” message. Faculty members try to model the use of technologies and differentiated instruction in all courses. There is a strong emphasis on inclusion, social justice, and urban education. In my classes, I invite my students to take more active roles in the learning process by forming a sort of ‘study groups’ in charge of one topic and working collaboratively with me on various ways of representing knowledge to the whole class. I also try to let them see the importance of teaching higher order thinking besides basic skills. Students with disabilities deserve enriched learning opportunities that allow them to be thinkers rather than merely “remedial learners.” I hope to affirm my preservice teachers that they are thinkers and have important knowledge to bring to class.

In our special education program, we are strong advocates for inclusion of all students to be educated along with their non-disabled peers as much as possible. We model and teach the Universal Design for Learning principles to our future teachers.

Mark Newman, National-Louis University: I agree with Dave, leaders. The teachers need to have a theoretical premise on which to base their practice. They need to understand change and have a strategy for managing the continuing changes they face. They need to accommodate that all-important variable--time. Teachers also need to be independent learners who can increase their content understanding and possess the ability to apply that learning effectively in the classroom. Perhaps equally important, all involved in education have to devise ways to cope with increasingly pervasive accountability measures. In this instance, advocacy implies having society recognize that schools and higher education institutions are limited in terms of their custodial and other responsibilities.

Irving Epstein, Illinois Wesleyan University: We have the luxury of teaching a relatively small cohort of students, who stay together for much of their teacher education program. We are able to track their progress closely, we work together to problem solve when our students face challenges, and we try to integrate the principles of the liberal arts throughout our teacher education curriculum. Our emphasis upon social justice as not superficial. In addition, we demand that our students complete lengthy internship/student teaching experiences so that they become familiar with a school setting over two semesters. We want our students to become teachers who will regularly consult with one another, who understand that teaching is a complex set of processes whose mastery evolves over a lifetime, and that they need to constantly reflect upon the instructional choices that they make so as to continually improve.

Costas Spirou, National-Louis University: Much of my focus is placed on helping future teachers understand the importance and value of content. While there is considerable debate on content vs. pedagogy, many of our preservice students become exposed to unique perspectives that are intended to strengthen their knowledge base and critical thinking skills. These experiences, coupled with appropriate teaching methodologies have the power to prepare future teachers that can effectively address the needs of their students. It is my goal to help students develop the skills that will challenge current practices and help transform education.

4. Reflect on the implications of alternative certification, technology, national certification and the changing demographics of school population.

David McMullen, Bradley University: I think it is time the education community takes a position against the more radical alternative certification programs. The teacher education curriculum has been shaped and refined through many years of research on what constitutes best practice. To suggest that this can be boiled down into a "teaching boot camp" is not realistic and ultimately damaging to the students who will be the victims of these ill-prepared teachers.

Technology will always have a role in the classroom. The key is to use it appropriately. It should be transparently, that is it should not get in the way of instruction. Technology should serve as a tool much like the other more basic tools of the classroom such as the whiteboard. Teachers will need to be lifelong technology learners as technology changes rapidly and often unpredictably.

A movement towards national certification of teachers is positive step toward professionalizing teaching. Teacher education programs which are nationally recognized by NCATE are already producing teachers who have reciprocal certification in many states. National Board Certification is also a form of national certification albeit for experienced in-service teachers. In the near future, I predict that national certification of teachers will become a reality.

The changing demographics of the school population presents great challenges for teachers. One of the most pressing issues is how to engage the parents of these students into the life of the school. Many of the parents did not have a positive school experience or are living on the margin of society just struggling to provide for their family with little time to become involved in the school. However, successful schools have found out how to get parents involved. What is needed is to share this model with other schools who are experiencing these issues.

Xiuwen Wu, National-Louis University: The changing demographics of school population entail an ongoing examination of the rigor of teaching in classrooms. Teachers not only need to possess knowledge of content, pedagogy, and technology, but also to understand how these three areas intersect to support successful teaching across disciplines.

Technology can play a key mediating role in enhancing students’ performances and functioning in and beyond schools. For special needs students, technology can make the single difference between being excluded from a learning environment and being recognized as fully independent and functional members of the same environment.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) through their certification process has helped many teachers become passionate and rejuvenated in the profession. These teachers quickly assume leadership roles to help mentor other teachers in their schools. It is a good thing for teachers to get recognized for excellence in teaching through National Board Certification and feel a heightened sense of pride in what they do. What really appeals to me is that NBPTS emphasizes forming of teacher learning communities that are sustained by teachers themselves.

At NLU, there is a program called Interdisciplinary Studies in Curriculum and Instruction with National Board of Certification Preparation. The courses within this program stress action research aligned with the five goals of NBC: teachers are committed to students and learning, teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those strategies to students, teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning, teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience, and teachers are members of learning communities.

Alternative certification in special education is on the rise because of a shortage of special education teachers, the need for teachers from underrepresented groups, and criticism on traditional approaches to teacher preparation, to name a few. However, I think this movement has been rushed and led to a “jumping on the wagon” effect that results in little time planning for the implementation of the program. Issues remain as to what constitutes the best course of study for Alternative Certification courses, whether faculty have a common understanding and even buy-in of this model, and if there is enough personnel to teach in such program.

Irving Epstein, Illinois Wesleyan University:
Alternative certification potentially represents an equally pernicious threat to the profession insofar as it promotes the assumption that anyone can teach or that one can simply teach well through learning on the job without significant preparation. However, many alternative certification programs (e.g. Teach for America) are popular because they represent understandable opposition to the standards based movement, which is seen as not only being ineffective, but controlling and limiting who can get into the teaching profession.

Technological change is influencing social relationships of all types and will of course influence classroom interaction and instruction. Teachers do need to do a better job of teaching information literacy while using the social networking skills that students have acquired through their use of texting, facebook, etc. to promote deep learning within the classroom.

National certification is not necessarily a bad thing and there are positive elements of the National Board Certification process. However, the process has been very weak in creating on-site leadership, or enabling those who have received NBC to take leadership positions within their schools and districts, let alone encourage peers to engage in best practices.

Sherrie Pardieck, Bradley University: Alternative Certification should not be used to signify a teaching certificate. The teacher certification program throughout the country has gone through major changes. The requirements are expected for accomplishment to insure that teachers have the needed skills, background knowledge, and pedagogy to assist all students to learn.

National Certification provides teachers with opportunities to continue their learning as professional educators and to apply their learning to meaningful classroom learning activities and document their learning activities. The intent of the National Board of Certification was to add to the professionalism to our profession.

Technology is an area of huge growth. Most educators use some form of technology in their classrooms as well as students using their own technology for learning and communication purposes. As technology opens many doors to virtual experiences and unlimited resources for learning, educators are now facing the challenge of teaching students how to use technology correctly. Spelling, correct salutations, confidentiality issues, and plagiarism are concepts that all educators are working with in their classrooms today. We will see more national regulations for the use of technology appearing in the future. Since technology is quickly becoming the main venue for reading, writing, and communication it will be interesting to see what new rules and regulations are implemented and how they impact education.

Costas Spirou, National-Louis University: I am in full agreement with some of the statements above. Unfortunately some of the radical alternative certification practices are in concert with other initiatives that aim to quickly address existing educational problems. In the process, we tend to reduce the importance of comprehensive preparation, often introducing unprepared professionals.  We thus shift our focus away from understanding education as a social institution.  This type of quick professionalization process often focuses on procedural issues that miss a key element; education is also an enterprise that brings about social change via critical inquiry.

5. How are you addressing the needs of in-service teachers?

David McMullen, Bradley University: At Bradley University we offer graduate programs in Curriculum and Instruction, Environmental Science, and Educational Leadership. In-service teachers can continue their education and earn a master's degree. Teacher education faculty also provide in-service workshops on many topics of interest. Our department also involves in-service teachers in our own program planning process through advisory boards.

Sherrie Pardieck, Bradley University:
I do believe that we are addressing the needs of our in-service teachers and administrators through partnerships between clinical and field placements, Professional Development Schools, and programs like the Teaching with Primary Sources. In-service teachers need a way to continue their learning and stay current with research, content, and assessment. Also, as part of community service I do believe that professors from colleges and universities have an obligation to initiate programs, present information, problem solve, or serve in a consultation position. It is important to give back to our communities.

Xiuwen Wu, National-Louis University: NLU has formed a number of community partnerships with surrounding school districts to serve the needs of in-service teachers. Our faculty also helps teachers by engaging in professional development activities, consultation for schools, and internally or externally funded research projects.

Sherrie Pardieck, Bradley University: Bradley University also has many partnerships or contracts with school in and around the Peoria area for clinical and field placements. When requested, professional development learning activities or workshops are presented. However, we have five professional development schools in which we have a contractual agreement. They are specifically professional development schools that partnership with Kemper Professional Development Schools through the College of Education and Health Sciences. Throughout the many professional development opportunities that the schools request, we provide professional development sessions and internships from our College. The College's departments include teacher education, dietetics, family and consumer sciences, nursing, physical therapy, counseling, and educational leadership. If schools request assistance from other departments on campus, the requests will be fulfilled. The intent is continue teaching, research and service through on-going professional development for school and college faculty and staff.

6. From your perspective, what will be the future of teacher education?

David McMullen, Bradley University
: Teacher education will become more professional and more globalized in the future. Due to the mobility of people and globalization, I feel that teachers will one day earn a license that will be honored worldwide - much like physicians. Obviously, teachers would still retain specialties and not be qualified to teach everything anywhere with their license, but they would still be regarded as professional teachers - at least that is my vision. Currently, college faculty have this distinction and are recognized as professors in the academy where ever they reside.

Xiuwen Wu, National-Louis University: In my view, teacher education in the future will look something like this:

1) teacher candidates are required to have stronger content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge

2) teacher candidates have a greater flexibility in choosing courses and custom-designing their programs of study

3) teacher candidates are given more opportunities to do meaningful field experiences during teacher preparation, b) availability of

4) a stronger emphasis is placed on action research and professional collaborations to help expand teaching capacity in diverse classrooms

5) greater convergence between general education and special education teacher preparation programs should take place

Mark Newman, National-Louis University: Currently, a disconnect exists between many trends related to accountability that foster standardization and a one size fits all idea of teacher education, the need for teachers in certain areas and the solutions that threaten to diminish teaching as a profession, recent scholarship that stresses differentiation, the recognition that preservice teacher education candidates need more classroom experience, that classroom teachers need higher quality professional development and more robust support, and economic factors that work for and against all of the above. Technology also is profoundly influencing all aspects of education. The shape of the future likely depends on two important factors. The first is the economic situation that will largely determine much of what happens. The second relates to teaching as a profession. If teaching is accorded high status as a profession and teacher education is funded at a level to support that professionalism, then the scenarios described above are likely to occur. In my opinion, the seamless integration of research into all aspects of teacher education, particularly in preservice and inservice teacher education programs, can play an important role in making important connections that can allow high professional status to be realized and help secure important funding. We live in an age where evidence-based decision-making is gaining credence. Since research has always been an evidence-based pursuit, it can play strong role in how teacher education evolves in the future.

Irving Epstein, Illinois Wesleyan University: Teacher education's future depends upon the willingness of educators to stand up for the fundamental values that affirm the importance of learning and becoming educated: the joy of self-discovery, a love of ideas, the excitement that comes through engaging with text, the importance of embracing creativity. Such are the values and experiences that we should all want our students to share and we need to do a better job of affirming the importance of these values if teacher education is to gain the status within the academy and within society that it deserves.

Sherrie Pardieck, Bradley University: I agree with Irv in reference to the joy of learning. Everyone should have quality educational opportunities. Until the funding of schools is equalized, that concept cannot be shared across the country. Some of the educational trends that I see surfacing are the areas of community service learning and vocational learning.

More schools are incorporating service learning to assist and better the communities in which students live. To be able to share their learning and help others, students see positive results. Some of the service learning may be in community centers to assist literacy skills of children, work with senior citizens, or help to clean up the environment. All of which benefit the community in a "togetherness of learning" and shared responsibility of our neighbors' well-being.

Vocational skills are once again being viewed as a necessary component of the secondary curriculum. The service sector performs a vital function for the members of its community to sustain quality of living opportunities. Literacy skills and possessing a specialization of skills help communities grow and develop as they sustain a quality of living for their residents. Teaching students to learn a trade helps them to become a valued member of the community.