One of the great challenges in our field is how to address the many myths that exist about schools and the teaching profession. I still hear it frequently stated that a physician from the 19th century would be totally lost in an operating room today, but a teacher from the same century would be quite at home in today’s classrooms. That is, of course, far from the truth. Similarly there are many myths about teacher preparation that exist in the general public and to some extent even within the profession itself. In my next couple of blog posts I will attempt to address some of the major myths I deal with on a regular basis. I will be speaking primarily from a Portland State University perspective but most of my comments apply broadly to many, if not most, teacher preparation programs in Oregon. I welcome your comments and your suggestions for other myths or questions I should address.
Myth: Most teachers are prepared at the baccalaureate level.
That may still be true in general across the nation, but it is certainly not true in Oregon. Over 85% of the teachers we prepare in this state are prepared at the Masters level. This is perhaps the most prevalent myth among the general public in Oregon. Most people outside the profession are surprised when I tell them this and that PSU teacher candidates are prepared at the Masters level. The fact that most teachers in Oregon are prepared at the Masters level challenges many of the other myths as you will see later.
Myth: Teacher candidates spend most of their time taking education methods courses and, therefore, lack a good background in the subjects they will teach.
Oregon moved most teacher education to the post-baccalaureate level over 20 years ago after “A Nation at Risk” was issued and a member of the commission that prepared the report, Vera Katz, promoted the recommendation that all teacher preparation take place at the post-baccalaureate level. The rationale for this was based largely on the desire for all teachers to have strong backgrounds in a subject area outside education. Candidates enter our programs with majors in relevant subject areas and at many universities with undergraduate GPAs of 3.0 or higher. Even teacher candidates prepared at the baccalaureate level generally receive good subject matter preparation and, in Oregon, all teachers must pass subject matter content examinations to qualify for licensure.
Myth: Teacher candidates don’t begin student teaching in a K-12 classroom until the last term of their teacher education program.
Every teacher preparation program I am familiar with today engages teacher candidates in schools very early in their program. At PSU, candidates begin classes in the summer and they start working in schools when the K-12 school year begins—a month before fall classes start at the university. Their responsibilities increase through the year (we have a twelve month program) and they culminate their fieldwork with full time student teaching in the spring. They remain in the schools until the school year ends.
In future blogs I will talk about the following myths:
- Methods classes are not tied to the realities of the classroom.
- Educator preparation programs are not held accountable.
- Every educator preparation program that seeks national accreditation receives it and easily maintains it over time.
Please let me know if you have other questions or myths you wish me to address.