What qualifies a teacher to teach?
Could alternate education programs make colleges obsolete? Credit: Corbis
That's the question being pondered by the New York State Board of Regents, which this week will vote on whether to allow alternative organizations such as Teach for America
to create their own master's degree programs, The New York Times
If approved, the action could put the future of education colleges in question.
"In a lot of respects, what the Regents have done is the ghost of Christmas future," Arthur Levine, a former president of Teachers College at Columbia University and now president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, tells The Times. "Education schools are on the verge of losing their franchise."
Teach for America places recent college graduates into teaching jobs without previous teaching experience or education coursework, whereas annual tuition for a master's degree program at a public university such as City College of New York costs $7,360, and tuition at a prestigious private institution like Teachers College runs $26,040.
A dozen states require teachers to get a master's degree. Alternative certification programs such as Teach for America allow college graduates who did not study eduction to begin teaching while pursuing a master's degree after hours, The Times reports. However, only a few states, including Rhode Island and Louisiana, currently allow alternative education programs to effectively certify their own teachers, according to the newspaper.
These programs are growing. The 2011 federal education budget doubles the financing for teacher training through a $235 million fund that will go to both alternative and traditional preparation programs, The Times reports.
Education deans say they are grateful for programs like Teach for America, but they deny that education colleges are too focused on theory.
"We're at a huge frontier when it comes to understanding learning," Susan H. Fuhrman, president of Teachers College, tells The Times. "Divorcing teacher preparation from this research would suggest to me that you would prepare doctors with hands-on tools without their benefiting from medical research."
The board is expected to approve the Regents' proposal when it votes on Tuesday, and it does not need the approval of the state Legislature. If approved, groups would create the master's programs and the Regents would award the degree.
A spokeswoman for Teach for America says the group would consider submitting a plan for a certification program.
Related: Teachers Wanted, No Classroom Experience Necessary