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GRADUATE EDUCATION STUDENTS such as MacDonald
say they chose UCLA for its emphasis on educational equity in urban
schools, its strong support network and solid grounding in education
theory and research. But while they may appreciate the academic
study of teaching methods, not everyone is convinced it's the best
way to prepare teachers.
Some reports have suggested that there is no reliable link between
pedagogical training and classroom success. In 1999, for example,
the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, an educational-research advocacy
organization in Washington, D.C., argued in a policy statement that
it is more important for teachers to earn college degrees in the
subjects they wish to teach and that state certification standards
and education-school curricula actually deter potential teaching
"Traditional training programs should be closely scrutinized
for their length, cost, burden and value," the report states.
"Is a two-year time commitment really necessary, for example?"
One organization frequently cited as a successful alternative to
traditional teacher-preparation programs is Teach for America. Launched
in 1990 with a grounding in a national-service ethic, Teach for
America recruits liberal-arts graduates from colleges, trains them
for five weeks and places them exclusively in low-income urban and
rural schools in 20 regions across the country; a minimum two-year
teaching commitment is required. Teach for America, which recently
recruited on the UCLA campus, reports that more than 10,000 people
have participated nationwide.
"The popularity of programs such as Teach for America ...
indicates that the prospect of teaching without first being obliged
to spend years in pedagogical study appeals to some of our brightest
college graduates," states the Teaching Commission —
a panel of leaders in government, business, philanthropy and education
— in its January 2004 report "Teaching at Risk: A Call
to Action." Unlike the Fordham Foundation, however, the Teaching
Commission urges states to raise teacher-certification standards
and universities to bolster admission and academic requirements
for teacher-preparation programs.
Metcalfe says the push for such programs as Teach for America and
efforts to loosen teacher-education and certification standards
are born of concern that the education system is failing students.
"There's a tremendous frustration right now that things don't
seem to be any better," Metcalfe says.
One major question is what exactly constitutes a qualified teacher,
says Lauren Jones Young, director of institutional initiatives for
the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation, which investigates ways in
which education can be improved around the world. "And how
exactly do you develop those qualities in an individual?" she
The foundation has awarded grants to UCLA and other universities
to support the development of education researchers. "One of
the challenges to the profession is developing richer evidence about
how to prepare teachers who can foster learning among the linguistic
and culturally diverse students who make up today's classrooms,"