Teaching with Primary Sources
Teaching and Learning with Primary Sources:
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
6. From your perspective, what will be the future of teacher education?
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.
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.