There is a great deal of hand-wringing (and not much else) going on about the shortages of math and science teachers in Florida. Inevitably, the state’s college- and university-based math and science teacher education programs come up during these discussions.
What do we need from our math and science teacher education programs? We at least need these three things (and perhaps more):
- They must recruit strong math and science students into teaching. The recent CALDER Center study of the Texas UTeach sites argued that their ability to recruit strong students was what most distinguished them – particularly the Austin site.
- They must train their students in the most effective teaching techniques and make sure their students deeply understand the research that forms the foundation of these techniques. Most new teachers will find that they have to compromise on the issue of how they teach when they arrive in their first jobs. However, that process of compromise should not begin while the prospective teachers are being trained.
- They must prepare their students for the task of classroom management. So here is a confession: I teach 20-year-olds at a fairly selective institution. That means I know nothing about classroom management. But I keep hearing this from experienced teachers and administrators: “Nobody prepares new teachers to manage their classrooms!” So I take that to mean that classroom management is a important issue that is inadequately addressed in teacher preparation programs.
It would be best if every teacher preparation program did all of these things, but clearly they don’t. Let’s set the bar this way: Every teacher preparation program should do at least one of these three things. And if a program doesn’t do any of these things, it should be shut down. Period.