NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

There's a Vast Gap Between an Education Major and a Teacher

March 19, 2002

All too often, the 1,200 U.S. colleges that specialize in teacher training recruit mediocre candidates and spend little on their education, critics charge. They say the process is just too profitable for the education colleges to give up.

  • Researchers have concluded that an elementary school student who draws three lousy teachers in a row will slip into a deep academic hole.
  • And with only a dozen or so of the 1,200 teachers colleges rated of high quality, there are ample opportunities to set up student academic failure.
  • Professors at teacher colleges flunk when it comes to supporting state education standards -- meaning that many of those they teach and graduate will go on to undermine the standards when they move on to their own classrooms.
  • Observers say that few education majors learn how to teach the kind of phonics-based reading instruction that has proved to be the most valuable and effective.

In 1998, Congress gave the states an opportunity to weed out low-performing education schools by requiring them to grade the institutions. Most states have ducked the challenge. Only North Carolina has identified a single low-performing teacher college.

One path for improving teacher colleges may be found at Boston University -- which in 1980 embarked on a dramatic upgrade of its college of education. By shrinking class size and becoming more selective, average scores of incoming freshmen rose 200 points to 1,250 by 2000.

Education students at Boston University take many of their math, science and English courses outside the education college. Plus, it is the only university in the country that actually runs a school district.

Source: Editorial, "Too Many Teacher Colleges Major in Mediocrity," USA Today, March 18, 2002.


Browse more articles on Education Issues