Monday, August 01, 2011

Western's "Weak" Education College

Julie Mack reports on the poor ranking of Western's education program.

Julie Mack blog: Does Western Michigan University have a 'weak' program for training teachers?
The National Council on Teacher Quality issued a report last week critical of U.S. teacher-training programs, based on a study of student-teacher programs at 134 colleges nationwide.

One of the programs included in the study was Western Michigan University, whose student-teacher program was listed in the report as "weak."
She had previously interviewed former Western President Judy Bailey about the issue.
When Judith Bailey was still WMU president, I once asked her point-blank about the College of Education's mediocre reputation. Without missing a beat, she smoothly changed the topic. ("Do you know what program of ours is really underrated? College of Fine Arts.")
Typical Bailey. Diether Haenicke gave an honest answer.
Before his death in 2009, I l recounted that conversation to former WMU President Diether Haenicke. I figured Haenicke would stoutly defended the College of Education. Instead, he shook his head and said his own failure to reform that particular program was one of his greatest frustrations and regrets. "I tried and tried," but there were too many people in the department resistant to change, he said.
What's wrong with the program?
Certainly, in the local K-12 community, school officials take a lukewarm view of WMU's program. The standard critique: Too many professors teaching outdated theories; too few instructors with actual experience in K-12 classrooms; too little focus on skills such as classroom management and the challenges of educating low-income students.

"When we get kids from Western, we have to retrain them," a former superintendent once told me.
Shockingly, the best way to learn how to teach is to actually do it. In some of Western's departments, graduate students can be put in the classroom teaching college classes with only a couple days of training.

I have talked to numerous College of Education students who describe sitting through endless busywork classes en route to their degrees.

As explained by Thomas Sowell in America's Education Disaster, colleges of education serve as negative filters to screen out bright and knowledgeable people who be good teachers but are unwilling to sit through years of busywork classes. Such people present a threat to the mediocre teachers who staff our classrooms. Teachers' unions and their allies use licensing to restrict the supply of teachers and hence increase their pay.

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