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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2009

IU education dean responds to U.S. education secretary's teacher prep remarks

Oct. 22, 2009

Indiana University School of Education Dean Gerardo M. Gonzalez issued the following statement in response to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's speech titled "Teacher Preparation: Reforming the Uncertain Profession," delivered today (Oct. 22) at Columbia Teachers College in New York City:

Gerardo M. Gonzalez

Gerardo M. Gonzalez

Print-Quality Photo

"Secretary Duncan gave a challenging, yet encouraging speech for all of us who care about our children's education and the preparation of their teachers. Given that we are especially attuned to the debate surrounding teacher preparation because of proposed teacher licensure changes before the Indiana Professional Standards Advisory Board, the speech has particular resonance among us in the IU School of Education.

As we have consistently said during our discussions with state leaders, it is right to demand that our graduates have a deep knowledge of subjects they teach Indiana students. By the measure the state now uses to gauge content knowledge and the one the new licensure rules would use -- the Praxis exam -- teacher education graduates do very well. Every IU Bloomington graduate passed the exam in the last reporting period. Rule changes proposed by the Indiana Department of Education would reduce the content hours in the teaching subject for future teachers in Indiana. As suggested by Secretary Duncan, perhaps the state should focus on strengthening its teacher licensure exams instead of regulating the higher education curriculum.

Quoting President Lyndon B. Johnson who said teachers "must possess new knowledge and new skill," Secretary Duncan emphasized pedagogy as an important part of teacher preparation. He said his Chicago teachers said they needed more hands-on training with classroom management and instruction on how to use data to improve instruction and boost student learning. His call for more hands-on experience for new teachers is precisely what the Indiana educator licensing rules propose to scale back.

Secretary Duncan pointed out that alternative pathways to teaching should be pursued, and we agree. He noted, though, that the programs produce fewer than 10,000 teachers a year, concluding that schools of education will always be the predominant preparer of new teachers. So it is the responsibility of schools of education working with the state, schools, teachers, and parents to ensure that we make the correct decisions. Requiring majors in the field and not allowing education majors as middle and high school teachers -- as is now proposed in the Indiana licensure changes -- and reducing the time pre-service teachers would spend gaining classroom experience -- also within the Indiana proposal -- are not among Secretary Duncan's suggestions.

We applaud Secretary Duncan's affirmation that hands-on experience and research-based preparation about the best ways to teach are important. We look forward to continuing the discussion about preparing better teachers for Indiana and the country."