Arthur Levine, an education expert of national renown, began researching problems in teacher training programs a decade ago and found many were outdated and ineffective.
Now he has a solution: a new graduate school of education aimed at improving the way teachers are prepared to work in the classroom.
“For too many decades, we have seen teacher education prepare future leaders through methods and approaches that simply have not adapted to reflect the challenges of the times,” Levine, a former president of Teachers College at Columbia University and now president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, said in a statement Tuesday.
Levine said that the new program school, the Woodrow Wilson Academy for Teaching and Learning, would focus on the skills and knowledge that teachers, principals and other education leaders need. It will make its approach available to schools of education nationwide at no cost.
“It becomes very easy to throw bricks at higher education or to throw bricks at teacher education in particular,” said Patrick Riccards, the foundation’s chief communications and strategy officer. “What this is trying to do is answer the question of what do we do about it.”
Whether students get great teachers each year or not depends largely on how well the teachers were prepared for their careers in the first place, Riccards said. There have been widespread calls for improvements in teacher training in recent years, including a plan by the Education Department in 2011.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology plans to collaborate with the new school to study what works best to prepare teachers, with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math from preschool through high school.
In addition to the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, supporters of the new educator training program include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Amgen Foundation, the Simons Foundation and the Carnegie Corp. of New York.
The new school will offer master’s degree programs in education, beginning with 25 students preparing to become math and science teachers. The program will be based on a “competency” model that allows students to get credit for what they’re already able to do.
“I think we’re also going to be able to move beyond all of this fighting about teacher evaluations and what works and what does not,” Riccards said, “and really look at this and know with certainty – this is a good teacher.”