George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

Arthur Wise: Thoughts on Teacher Preparation

September 1, 2001

Arthur E. Wise, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), discusses education schools' responsibilities in producing high-quality teachers.

1. How does accreditation for schools of education compare to accreditation for other professional schools?

If you walk onto a college campus, a university campus anywhere in the country, you can be sure that every professional school on that campus has been assessed against rigorous national professional standards and is accredited. That will be true certainly of the medical school and the law school and the dental school and the engineering school and the architecture school. Only when it comes to the college of education will you find the one professional school where accreditation is optional.

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2. You have said we are in the midst of a "revolution" in teacher education. Can you elaborate?

Teaching today is where medicine was just about one-hundred years ago. Indeed, there was a revolution in both the practice of medicine and in medical education that occurred between 1890 and 1910. And I like to believe that we are in the middle of a comparable revolution in our field. It started around 1985 or '90. And we are sort of about ten or twelve years into it. We probably have another ten or twelve years more to go before we fully consummate this.

The key is that members of the profession themselves in the lead work to insist upon high standards -- high standards of preparation, high standards for licensing, high standards for certification. And you can see it well-documented in history that when medicine was organized and when physicians became active at the state level and began to insist that doctors be graduates of nationally accredited medical schools, things started to change.

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3. How do you explain the low status of colleges of education?

There are layers of explanation for the low status of our education schools. They have been starved for resources for a very long time, and they are, as we often say, the cash cow of many universities. And certainly you know the technology infrastructure of colleges of education is not on a par with the technology infrastructure of other professional schools.

This is why we have been so aggressive here at NCATE and why the various bodies that advise us have urged us to be so aggressive in ratcheting up our expectations for not just the technological infrastructure of colleges of education but for resource provision of them so that they can do the job that they need to do.

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4. Do colleges of education receive the same degree of corporate support as schools of business or engineering?

I once was at a meeting with corporate giving officers. These are individuals, of course, responsible for helping the companies figure out where to make donations. And I asked for a show of hands from the audience how many of these individuals' companies had ever endowed a professorship in an engineering school. A bunch of hands went up. Then I asked how many had ever endowed a professorship in a business school. And a bunch more hands went up. Then I asked if any had ever endowed a professorship in a college of education. And not a single hand went up. There was much embarrassment around the room with that revelation.

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5. Who suffers most when the nation's schools hire unprepared teachers?

The unprepared teachers, the unqualified teachers, the unaccountable teachers are disproportionately to be found teaching youngsters who most need what qualified teachers have to offer. They are, of course, found in the most blighted parts of our cities, the most disadvantaged children among us. And the problem is repeated on an annual cycle. It isn't just one year that a child may receive an unqualified teacher. But if you are in an under-performing school, there's a good chance you may be taught every year by an unqualified teacher, and, in fact, an excellent probability that you'll see a parade of unqualified people through your classroom. And this is simply wrong. It is immoral. It is inequitable. And it will continue to doom some youngsters to a lack of success throughout their careers.

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6. How do we prepare more teachers to teach in urban areas and other locations that have been denied the best teachers?

An answer to this problem is to create professional development schools, collaborations between universities and schools. But not to be found in the fancy suburbs: to be located in some of our most needy schools and school districts so that seasoned veterans, who might be appropriately compensated for this great responsibility, might staff a school in such a way that it will not only serve the children in that community but will serve as an effective means by which to help induct generations of new teachers. This is a model that we have long used in medicine, as a matter of fact. The teaching hospital almost always located in urban areas, serving youngsters and adults from that community according to their medical infirmities and needs. We could try a little bit of that model as far as school children are concerned as well.

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7. Why is technology so important?

Technology has revolutionized every other industry segment and component of our society, economy, and culture and yet has not done so in education, although I think that revolution is near. And consequently, I think it is important that teachers be prepared not only to use today's technology but also to think systematically and analytically about it because obviously the technology is going to continue to change and evolve. And if we are to effectively integrate today's technology and tomorrow's technology and instruction, then educators need to be well prepared to work with it.

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8. How do the NCATE standards address technology?

Expectations for technology integration permeate our standards. Indeed, we have now six standards for accreditation, and technology is implicated in every one of them. But the most important consideration is that as teachers exit the university, and as other educators exit the university, we expect that they are able to integrate technology effectively into instruction. We expect university professors to model effective uses of technology in their instruction. We expect the technology infrastructure of the college of education to compare very favorably with the technology infrastructure of, say, the college of engineering, the college of business.

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