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By SusanC.Thomson
Princeton, New Jersey
A
rthur E. Levine is a hurriedman on a big, bold
mission. His goals, he says, are to dignify classroom
teaching, attract exceptional people to it, transform the
college and university programs that prepare them, and create
the teacher-educationmodels of the future. He’s thinking
nationally, but he’s acting a state at a time, starting with
Indiana.
There, 56 high-achieving, handpickedmen and women are
rounding out a transformative year, earning master’s degrees
while spending long hours in classrooms, learning to teach by
watching and doing. Come late summer, when the bells ring in
a new school year, they will begin new careers teaching science
andmath in some of the state’s lower-income public secondary
schools.
As teaching recruits, they’re a decided breed apart—and
above. Each brought to this challenging year at least a
bachelor’s degree, typically inmath, science or engineering.
More than a quarter came with advanced degrees—Ph.D.s
andMBAs included—as well. They range from fresh college
graduates to 60-something retirees returning to the workforce.
More than half are career changers with resumes that
include jobs like laboratory technician, medical technologist,
respiratory therapist, veterinary assistant, wildlife manager,
pharmaceutical researcher and bench scientist.
They are the inaugural class of a newWoodrowWilson
National Fellowship Foundation program for would-be
teachers—the above-average kind that the high-energy, highly
persuasive Levine had in
mind when he became
the foundation’s president
in 2006.
He arrived on the job
after a dozen years as
president and professor
of education at Teachers
College, Columbia
University, where he
had established himself
as a vigorous advocate
of greater, research-
based rigor in teacher
education.
Then came a timely
convergence of his and the foundation’s priorities. The
foundation, famous since its founding in 1945 for providing
stipends to prospective college and university teachers, was
looking for a new direction. Levine, at the same time, was
wrapping up “Educating School Teachers,” a 148-page report
that offered an unflattering assessment of the nation’s 1,206
May 2010
New Teacher Education
Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation program brings change, one state at a time
schools, colleges and
departments of education.
“At the moment,
teacher education is
the Dodge City of the
education world,” Levine
wrote in the report. “Like
the fabledWildWest town,
it is unruly and disordered.
The disorder is increasing
as traditional programs
vie with nontraditional
programs, undergraduate
programs compete with
graduate programs,
increased regulation
is juxtaposed against
deregulation, universities
struggle with new teacher
education providers, and
teachers are alternatively
educated for a profession
and a craft.”
Levine led the team
that did the underlying
research, which included
case studies of 28
departments or schools of
education, plus surveys of
thousands of education faculty, deans and department chairs,
as well as teachers and principals. The report, published under
his name alone, faulted teacher education in general for, among
other shortcomings, low admissions standards, over-emphasis
on theory at the expense of practical, classroom experience,
and, for beginning teachers, a lack of follow-up and on-the-job
support.
Levine concluded by advocating, as a new standard in the
field, five-year, research university-based training that would
allow teachers-to-be to both complete an academic major and
get plenty of classroompractice. To attract the most promising
teacher candidates, he suggested a new scholarship, equivalent
in prestige to the Rhodes, created by, for instance, the federal
government or a philanthropy.
Or, as he recalls proposing in his job interview, perhaps
such a scholarship could be created by theWoodrowWilson
National Fellowship Foundation. What better sponsor than an
organization with decades of experience working with colleges
and universities, and with several dozen Nobel laureates,
MacArthur fellows and Pulitzer Prize winners among its
20,000 alumni?The foundation seized on the idea and hired
Levine to implement it.
Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson
National Fellowship Foundation, hopes to spread the
foundation’s teaching fellowship programs to all 50
states.
When Arthur Levine
came calling about
Indiana’s possible
interest in Woodrow
Wilson teaching
fellowships,
Governor Mitch
Daniels was thrilled.
Joe Guerriero, Black Star, for CrossTalk