OKLAHOMA CITY (August 20, 2019)—Oklahoma’s teacher-hiring woes have made national headlines and lawmakers have increased state spending by hundreds of millions of dollars in response. But the impact of that spending may be hampered by the fact that colleges of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers.
A new report by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) calls for changes that will make “a reinvention of teacher education plausible, attractive, and sustainable for the schools” and lead to better outcomes.
“Forming Teachers: The Education School Challenge,” by Greg Forster, notes that individuals who emerge from colleges of education are often unprepared. Sixty-two percent of teachers in one report agreed with the statement, “Schools of education do not prepare their graduates to cope with classroom reality.”
Another report found there was no notable difference in the academic achievement of students taught by traditionally certified teachers and those who are uncertified, a finding with much significant for Oklahoma given the rapid increase in emergency-certified teachers.
Forster says two major causes of those problems are the “widespread presence—even dominance—of indoctrination into political radicalism in education-school curricula” and the “role education schools play in the special-interest coalition that dominates the electoral politics of education policy.”
The curricula of many colleges of education, Forster writes, include “far-left agitprop well outside the mainstream even of liberal progressivism,” and Oklahoma “is no exception.”
Forster notes that a random-day review of the Twitter feed of the University of Oklahoma’s Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education included advertisements for four events, of which two were on “environmental moral reasoning and sociomoral reasoning” and “social justice in education.”
To improve colleges of education and their ultimate product—teachers—Forster calls for adopting “public policies that reward education schools for producing teachers who are judged to be high quality by those who ought to have the authority to make that judgment.”
To that end, Forster calls for removing “unnecessary barriers to the hiring and (especially) firing of teachers” that would leave principals with the “full authority” to make those employment decisions. Forster says this would incentivize improvement in colleges of education because education schools “would not be able to attract students unless they could show that principals value their graduates.”
He also calls for transparency efforts such as testing education-school graduates “on their mastery of content knowledge in the core academic disciplines” and then “publishing the results.”
Forster concedes that enacting those policies may be “politically difficult” and “would have to happen over the long term,” but says significant change is necessary.
“Imposing a ruinous false ideology of teacher training upon the profession was not all done in a day,” Forster writes. “And fixing things takes more time than ruining them, not less.”
OCPA president Jonathan Small said Oklahoma lawmakers need to take the issue of teacher quality seriously.
“For Oklahoma taxpayers to get the maximum value out of the significant spending increases in our public-school system, we need to have the best teachers possible in every classroom,” Small said. “That won’t happen when colleges of education are allowed to shortchange teachers when it comes to training them on the realities of classroom instruction.”
Forster (Ph.D., Yale University) is the author of nine books and the co-editor of four books. He has written numerous articles in peer-reviewed academic journals.
To read the entire report, click here.
Now in its 26th year, OCPA is the state’s primary source for fact-based public policy analysis that supports free enterprise, limited government, and individual initiative.