|Pay me to have an opinion about school lunch? Retirement is awesome.|
Take for instance his open letter today at Brookings, in which Duncan castigates the nation's collegiate teacher preparation programs.
He opens with his trademark blame-disguised-as-praise:
Schools of education are providing one of the most important services in America today, training our future teachers who will prepare our children to succeed in work and in life. No other responsibility is more directly linked to our future.
Really? Economic policy, business growth, policies addressing poverty, maintenance of infrastructure, global diplomacy-- nothing at all more directly influences the future of our nation than how well colleges prepare future teachers? Okay then. Let's address the Most Critical Issue Facing Our Nation with a look at the hard facts.
Nah. On second thought, says Arne, let's just pull out a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, a group devoted to proving that college ed programs stink, and proving it by using the laziest research methods ever. In fact, Duncan goes back to a NCTQ report from November of 2014, the delightful "Easy A" report. I've already discussed this as the most rigor-free half-baked research to ever be taken seriously. Research so lazy that it "evaluated" non-existent programs. Research so lazy that it literally consisted of reading commencement programs and course catalogs.
Duncan also cites the Deans for Impact, a group that includes Mayme Hostetter, a "dean" of the Relay Graduate [sic] School [sic] of Education [sic], the group created by charter operators as a way to grow their own "teachers" without having to actually do any of the real work. Relay was just rejected by the state of Pennsylvania, based on their lack of pretty much all characteristic features of an actual graduate school of education like qualified education professors and (no kidding) a library of actual education resources.
Duncan also shares the shocking news that he has talked to many teachers who did not feel ready to teach on Day One. Here's a quick pro tip-- if you feel absolutely ready to teach on Day One-- any Day One, including Day One of your thirtieth year-- you do not understand the situation and you are probably not safe to let loose in a classroom.
Nevertheless, I will give Duncan some slack here. I have been pretty critical of some teacher prep programs myself, and it is true that there is room for improvement. That's the education biz-- there is always room for improvement. But first you have to understand what needs to improve and how teaching actually works, and after all these years, there's little evidence that Duncan gets it.
As usual with a Duncan missive on education, there is grinding cognitive dissonance folded in with the soaring rhetoric. Duncan wants education programs to know that there is no room for lowering expectations, that lowering expectations does a disservice to teaching candidates, students, and presumably, given his opening, the fate of civilization as we know it.
He wants to see teachers held to high standards, "like engineering, business and medical students," which I suppose is his special way of saying that teachers are super-important, but they all suck.
We've heard versions of this from Duncan before, and as always I am waiting for the part of the message that would logically follow.
I am waiting for the part where Duncan condemns Teach for America for its super-short teacher training program. I am waiting for the part where Duncan condemns states that now allow anybody with any sort of degree to work in a classroom. I am waiting for the part where he condemns states and school districts try to fight the teacher shortage by lowering the job requirements to "stays upright, mostly."
I am waiting, of course, in vain. Citizen Duncan, like Secretary Duncan, reserves his scolding for the traditional public school system and the people who spend their lives working there. The shadow education system, the parallel system set up in the land of free market forces and private profit-- that system remains above reproach, immune to criticism, the recipients of no public letters except those filled with praise.