Good training, good teachers -- or maybe not

The Education Beat

Report: A foundation's criticism of teacher certification requirements draws fire from one educators group and support from another.

October 24, 2001|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

MOST OF the Abell Foundation's reports don't travel far beyond Maryland. But Abell's highly critical look at teacher licensing, published this month, continues to reverberate nationally.

That's not surprising. In the report, "Teacher Certification: Stumbling for Quality," Abell boldly takes on the teacher education establishment, concluding that there's no evidence that a licensed teacher, by taking the required number of college education courses and passing a national test, gets better results in the classroom.

It's a bit like saying that physicians with medical school training are no more prepared to diagnose and treat disease than those who never set foot in medical school.

In the two weeks since Abell released the report, written by senior policy analyst Kate Walsh, national groups have weighed in. The education establishment is, of course, most unhappy. Linda Darling-Hammond, head of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, calls the report a "stunning exercise in misrepresentation."

But not all teacher educators stand with Darling-Hammond. One small and generally conservative national group, the Education Consumers Consultants Network (ECCN), includes education professors and researchers. The group agrees with Abell that there is no good evidence that teacher certification is effective.

But you don't have to look at the volumes of research on the issue to reach that conclusion, the ECCN argues. "States empower professions to certify and license their members for the purpose of protecting the public. Therefore, we ask, has teacher certification served its purpose? Has the public been protected from unsound and ineffective practice? We believe the evidence is voluminous and clear: It has not."

For decades, the ECCN statement notes, poorly tested and ineffective educational practices have been embraced and employed by fully trained and certified teachers. It is these "faddish innovations," including whole-language reading instruction and open-space schools, that "present the very kind of risk that parents and the public seek to avoid by hiring trained and certified teachers," says the ECCN statement.

School offers the future a little history lesson

If you're Roland Park Country School, and you're celebrating your 100th birthday, what do you put in a time capsule to be opened in 2051? Here are some of the items chosen by a 16-member committee of students, faculty and staff:

A school pin, a brochure about laptop computers, a pair of gym shorts, a pencil bearing the school logo, photo albums from each of the school's three divisions, an admissions brochure, a copy of the Roland Park quarterly newsletter. Also included: The Sun's Oct. 5 front page with the lead headline "U.S. plans millions in Afghan aid."

Some college ledgers tinged with red last year

The nation's wealthiest colleges and universities lost billions in the stock market last year after years in the pink. Following a 32 percent rate of return last year, for example, Harvard University's endowment declined 2.7 percent in the year ending June 30, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. That's a loss on paper of $800 million.

Only a few schools finished in the black in the past year. The Johns Hopkins University held its own, enjoying a 14.4 percent rate of return last year, while its $1.8 billion endowment declined negligibly this year.

The Chronicle notes that while endowments generally declined this year, the drop followed a decade in which the wealth of some institutions quadrupled.

For $28 million, Tar Heels step into corporate world

Et tu, Chapel Hill?

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has signed an eight-year contract with Nike worth $28 million in cash, athletic shoes, apparel and equipment. The merchandise - including, for the first time, the playing uniforms of North Carolina's "student athletes" - will bear the Nike logo.

North Carolina has no ethical qualms about selling its name for cash and other gratuities, but it feels obliged to promise that the uniforms and other merchandise won't be manufactured in foreign sweatshops.

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