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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Should Education Schools Have "Higher" Standards For Graduating New Teachers?

How education schools fail the nation

By MICHAEL A. WALSH, NY POST, August 25, 2011

Which college field of study has the lowest standards and the highest grades -- a magical Lake Wobegon world in which all the students are not just above average but way above average? If you guessed “teaching,” you’d be right.

That’s the conclusion of a new study from the conservative American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, “Grade Inflation for Education Majors and Low Standards for Teachers.”

“Students who take education classes at universities receive significantly higher grades than students who take classes in every other academic discipline,” says the report. “The ... explanation is that the higher grades in education classes are the result of low grading standards.”

The study, authored by Corey Koedel, notes that education majors -- the future teachers of America, especially at the grade-school and high-school level -- routinely get top marks in the gut courses that ed majors generally take. And yet they consistently score lower on college entrance exams than students in other disciplines.

It’s an amazing disparity between ability and academic “achievement” that translates in the real world into high performance evaluations and failing schools, especially in urban areas.

What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing less than the future of the country.

Progressives like to defend their pet programs as “for the children,” but if anything ought to be for the children, it’s education. And yet secondary and high-school education in this country has too often become a sinecure of last resort for people who have no business teaching in the first place.

Teachers unions play a key role in this madness: Whenever the issue of “teacher quality” comes up, they push for more “certification” -- more degrees from the ed schools -- as the answer, rather than any sort of competency testing. And the unions would just as soon the certification came in meaningless areas -- that way it’s no threat to anyone’s job.

In fact, the theories of education have become far more important than the subjects themselves. The heck with reading, writing and arithmetic -- these days, it’s all about “strategies for learning.”

So it’s no wonder that American schoolkids have fallen far behind their international counterparts. Today a high-school diploma too often simply signifies four years spent under adult supervision in juvenile-detention centers for the largely nonviolent -- rather than any specific level of knowledge or attainment.

In turn, this has led to such futile barn-door closing as the No Child Left Behind act, which sought to set measurable standards of achievement through standardized tests. That brought us dumbed-down tests -- plus scandals like the Atlanta “erasure parties,” where teachers and administrators “improved” student test results. Investigators found misconduct in 44 of the 56 schools they examined, and at least 41 teachers implicated in the scandal have quit, among them 13 school principals.

The chances this scandal is confined to Atlanta? Slim or none.

The fact is that education in America has been turned on its head. It’s not about book learning any more. Instead, it’s about allowing teachers to stick another gold star of self-esteem on their resumes when their charges manage to conquer what would have been considered just a few decades ago the most rudimentary of exams.

It’s also about career advancement -- and, of course, getting more taxpayer dollars. And so as high schools have turned into grade schools, colleges -- especially state colleges -- have had to become very expensive remedial high schools.

This madness has to end. We must return to the days before education majors got a stranglehold on the schools, before the vicious cycle of bogus achievement leading to invincible ignorance. And it starts by hiring teachers who can teach subjects, not theories.

As Koedel notes, “Low grading standards in university education departments are part of a larger culture of low standards for educators, and they precede the low evaluation standards by which teachers are judged in K-12 schools.”

And for this we spend more than $600 billion on public primary and secondary education in America? There is a better way.