Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pawlenty of empty education ideas

I am struggling to understand how a man who can get a law degree and go on to become Governor can be so naive about what it takes to become a teacher.

Governor Pawlenty has prescribed yet another series of education initiatives short on details and long on rhetoric. Perhaps the most shallow is his nebulous idea of fast-tracking other professionals into teaching. First he thinks that the recruitment and training of teachers can be done without spending much, according to this morning's StarTribune article.

Ask any teacher, but especially those who have gone through traditional teacher preparation programs, and you will hear that they believe it should actually take longer and be more rigorous to become a teacher. They will especially point to what can be precipitously short student-teacher assignments, one of the most crucial links to long-term teacher success as well as a powerful testing period to assure that the profession of teaching will stick.

What you need to know is that moving from a handful of weeks of student teaching to a high quality internship program is going to cost money. It is unconscionable to ask someone to leave their current job to practice teaching full time for 10 months and not expect to compensate them somehow. In short, asking them to commit themselves to the best internship experience possible and expect them to balance a part-time job at the same time is sinister.

Furthermore, Governor Pawlenty is quoted in the StarTribune as saying that mid-career professionals "...shouldn't have to go back to college for four years or six years to be certified to teach."


Since when has any mid-career professional ever had to go back to school for 4-6 years? Even the longest, most comprehensive traditional post-baccalaureate teacher preparation programs are about 18 months long. The naivety of his comment should frighten all of us who care about this profession and the students we are committed to serving by becoming teachers.

There are over 70,000 experts in the state of Minnesota who have gone through traditional teacher preparation programs as well as used emergency waivers to enter the teaching profession and have then been able to test the strength of their preparation against the real-life, daily rigors of the job and every time I talk to them they have very thoughtful ideas about how to make preparation better.

The Governor needs to ask for these expert opinions, but then he has to want to hear the ideas.

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