Achieving "High Quality" in the Selection, Preparation and Retention of Teachers
Martin Haberman is a Distinguished Professor at
the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
To date, 2002, he has prepared more teachers than any other educator in American
history; he continues to do so in the MTEC Program designed for preparing mid-career
individuals wanting to teach in the Milwaukee Public Schools. His publication from
Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society, Star Teachers Serving Children
in Poverty has sold more copies than any other publication in KDP history.
(Mike Wolfe, Ex. Director, KDP International 2001) The Haberman Educational Foundation,
Inc. was chartered to continue his life long search of finding the best teachers
and principals for the children and youth of America, especially those at risk of
failure in todays public schools. To this end, the labor of the staff at the Haberman
Foundation has not gone un-noticed. We have trained administrators in 120 of the
nations largest school districts to select teachers and principals who fit the profile
of his researched- based star teacher /principal interview processes.We hope this
document will bring new incites to how we could solve the problems in teacher education
today for the large numbers of children in poverty being served who have little
or no control over who will teach them.
Delia Stafford, Founder and President, Haberman Educational Foundation, Inc. 4018
Martinshire Drive, Houston, Texas 77025
Of the three million teacher vacancies predicted for the next decade by The National
Commission on Teaching and Americas Future a preponderance will be new teachers
needed to serve approximately 14 million diverse children in urban and rural poverty.
(United States Department of Education, 2000) The phenomenon of an urban district
needing thousands of teachers surrounded by suburbs and small towns where there
are hundreds of applicants for one position has been a familiar phenomenon for over
half a century.
Factors Contributing to the Urban Teacher Shortage
Although the typical age of college graduates has risen from age 22 to age 26, it
is still generally true that most of those preparing to teach are college age youth,
that is, late adolescents and young adults. Approximately 80% of those preparing
to teach are youngsters below age 26 and approximately 20% are older non-traditional
post baccalaureate students or adults in alternative certification or on-the job
training programs. In order to meet the needs in urban poverty districts this balance
should be reversed so that the majority of those in teacher training are adults
over age 30. My best estimate is that of the approximately 500,000 traditionally
prepared teachers under age 26 produced annually by colleges and universities, fewer
than 15% (75,000) seek employment in the 120 major urban districts serving approximately
7 million diverse children in poverty. The research based on my Urban Teacher Selection
Interview indicates further that of the 15% who are willing to apply to work in
urban school districts that only one in ten (or 7,500) of those under aged 26 have
the predispositions and ideology to stay long enough (three years or longer) to
become successful teachers in urban schools. What this means is that the approximately
one half million youngsters under 26 in over 1,200 traditional program of teacher
education are supplying the 120 largest urban school districts with about 1.5% of
their annual teacher output.
While this is obviously a very small output from traditional teacher preparing institutions
it does represent a bloc of young people who do have the potential for teaching
diverse children in urban poverty and for whom the doors of the profession must
remain open. But should this population of young teachers represented by this 1.5%
contribution from the colleges and universities remain the predominant pool of future
teachers or should policy makers be looking for other constituencies from which
to draw and develop the teachers America needs?
Several factors contribute to this shortage of teachers where they are
needed most. First, the length of an average teaching career is now down to eleven
years. Teachers who pursue lifelong careers as classroom teachers are now clearly
in the minority.
Second, is the fact that in many states the majority of those graduated and certified
in traditional programs of teacher preparation never take jobs as teachers. In 1998
in my own state 71% of those graduated and certified by colleges and universities
did not take jobs as teachers. (Fisher & Swanson,2000) These non-teaching certified
graduates are frequently referred to by many experts in teacher education as fully
qualified. But if they dont take teaching positions because the jobs
are primarily in urban schools serving diverse children in poverty, for what and
for whom are these graduates fully qualified? In 1999 the SUNY system
prepared 17,000 fully qualified teachers. The number who applied for
teaching positions in New York City that year was zero..
Third, is the number of beginners who take jobs in urban schools but fail or leave.
Using data from the National Center for Educational Statistics School and
Staffing Survey, a respected researcher concluded: School staffing problems
are primarily due to excess demand resulting from a revolving doorwhere large
numbers of teachers depart for reasons other than retirement. (Ingersoll, 2001)
This churn of teachers into and out of schools serving diverse children in poverty
results in approximately 50% of new teachers leaving urban districts in less than
five years. In my own city 50% of the more than 1,000 new teachers hired annually
will be gone in three years or less. Most of the leavers quit in the first year.
(Haberman and Rickards, 1990)
Fourth, is the shortage of special education teachers. This shortage is exacerbated
by the fact that many suburbs, small towns, parochial and private schools contract
out the education of their children with special needs to their nearby urban school
Fifth, is a greater numbers of entrance level career opportunities now available
to women outside of teaching at the time of college graduation. Many, however, soon
discover that they encounter glass ceilings and can only advance in limited ways.
After age 30 this population includes many who decide to make more mature decisions
than they did at age 20 and seek to become teachers of diverse children in poverty.
Sixth, is the fact that college graduates of color now have greater access to a
larger number of entry-level career positions. As with the population of women who
perceive greater opportunity for careers of higher status and greater financial
reward outside of teaching, this population also frequently experiences glass ceilings
after age thirty. African Americans comprise fewer than 6% of all undergraduates
in all fields and substantially fewer who decide as youthful undergraduates to pursue
traditional university based programs of teacher education. But as career-changers
after age thirty, college graduates of color (particularly women) become a primary
source of teachers for diverse children in poverty in urban school districts. In
my city, the school district employs more African American college graduates than
any business or government.
The continuing and worsening teacher shortage must also take note of the special
nature of teaching fields such as math and science. Math and science teachers leave
at a higher rate than others; they tend to be men seeking better opportunities in
other fields. (Murnane, 1996) While the causes of the shortage in these areas have
some distinctive dimensions, they are not discussed separately but are included
in the analysis of the entire problem. The solutions proposed for the general shortage
would also impact on these high need specializations.
Critical Issues Related to the Preparation of High Quality Teachers
1.Who determines the meaning of high quality using what criteria?
At one extreme high quality teachers are described as professional teacher
scholars performing mainly intellectual and academic functions. At the other extreme,
urban school districts hire and assign teachers-employees to perform functions prescribed
largely by custom and proscribed by the mandates of lay school boards. These employees
work under conditions they cannot control, with no voice in setting their objectives,
time schedules, or criteria of evaluation. In the 120 urban districts they are clearly
bureaucratic functionaries in dysfunctional organizations. Such teachers are considered
high quality if they are effective classroom managers, assignment makers
and test tutors. At no point in history has the gap been this wide between the concepts
of high quality advanced by university-based teacher educators and those
responsible for hiring and defining the roles of teachers in urban school districts.
The definition of high quality below is held by teacher educators, state
departments of education, national associations representing particular scholarly
disciplines, the AACTE, NCATE and the NEA. While there is wide divergence even disagreements
among these constituencies there is also great consensus regarding the qualities
they assign to high quality teachers:
1. sustained scholarly achievement in an academic discipline;
2. in-depth knowledge of human development;
3. familiarity with basic theories and constructs dealing with the nature of learning;
4. understanding of the assumptions undergirding different curriculum models;
5. working knowledge of various means for evaluating learning;
6. strategies for teaching children/youth with handicapping conditions in regular
7. uses of information systems and technology in instruction;
8. in-depth knowledge of methods for teaching their specific subject matters;
9. strategies for organizing classrooms of students at different achievement levels;
10. expertise in motivating learners;
11. knowledge of self-esteem, its development and strategies for enhancing it;
12. commitment to self reflection and skills for integrating experience into professional
13. knowledge of basic means for enhancing language development among non-standard
speakers and those with limited English;
14. thorough knowledge base related to the history of Native Americans, African
Americans, Hispanics and other culture groups in American society and specific skills
for relating to and utilizing this history in the teaching of specific subject matters.
Further, teachers knowledge in these areas must be in substantial depth before
they can be designated high quality. Finally, if one is to put any credence
on the extensive summaries of the knowledge base in encyclopedias of teaching and
teacher education, this is merely a starter list.
The state teaching licenses issued to those graduates who have been recommended
as possessing these bodies of knowledge contain no codicils or reservations and
pronounce the bearers fully qualified to implement these knowledge bases with all
children and youth, in all forms of schools, in neighborhoods and communities serving
all culture groups and economic classes. These criteria of high quality
lead to the inescapable conclusion that those engaged in offering programs of teacher
education seriously believe they are engaged in preparing universally competent
professionals. (As usually defined, professionals are those who share
a common body of knowledge not known to the public and whose practices are based
on research. Professionals also determine their own standards of licensure, decide
who their clients are, set their own fees and determine the services they will offer,
including the time they will spend with clients.)
High quality is defined quite differently in practice in the 120 largest
urban school districts serving 7 million diverse children in poverty. Again, while
there is wide variance in the meanings given to high quality in this
context, there is also some consensus among the various constituencies represented
in the urban schools. Teachers are treated as professionals in only the narrow sense
that they are paid. Any reasonable, objective analysis of their actual functioning
inevitably leads one to see that they are unionized employees contracted to perform
custodial as well as instructional duties defined by custom, law and administrative
regulations. Unlike professional practitioners in other fields they do not determine
the goals of their services, the content they teach, the numbers of clients they
will serve, the materials and equipment they will use, the conditions under which
they work, or how they or their students will be evaluated. Like other worker-employees
they have no control over their time schedules. In almost all urban schools systems
specific curriculum packages and methods are prescribed; an increasing number are
The first concern by those responsible for urban schools is not high quality
in either teaching or curriculum but rather in maintaining an orderly, safe environment.
This controlled environment is achieved by regulations dealing with discipline,
suspensions and expulsions. The disciplinary procedures of urban schools reflect
both school traditions and the knowledge base of experts in the fields of criminal
justice and public safety. Little of the educational knowledge base cited above
shapes or even influences the climate and life in urban schools.
If one disregards quitter/failure teachers, and even satisfactory ones, and considers
only teachers about whom there is a consensus that they are performing at a high
level, high quality teaching in urban schools refers to a clear set
of craft skills. Teachers identified as effective may demonstrate a superficial
not an in-depth knowledge of only some of the 14 areas of knowledge cited above.
Essentially, the craft that teachers demonstrate reflects their ideologies and belief
systems not an organized knowledge base or body of research. Their craft is built
on a set of skills for relating to and connecting with diverse children in poverty.
These skills are not universal but situation-specific and demonstrated with particular
culture groups. Most of all these skills are performed in mindless bureaucracies,
organized and functioning in ways which are antithetic to the knowledge base in
teaching and learning. Although the craft skills of effective teachers are clearly
observable, they cannot be performed by most certified, licensed teachers deemed
to be high quality by the first definition, or by experts in teacher
preparation, although connoisseurs of teaching are more likely to appreciate and
understand these skills.
II. What is the relative importance of selection vs. training in the preparation
of teachers for diverse children in poverty?
Traditional criteria used to select candidates into teacher preparation programs
predict those who will complete college requirements or who will pass state tests
for licensure. I would argue that admission criteria should instead predict who
will be effective with diverse children in poverty and who will remain as their
teachers for substantial periods.
Teacher attrition increases as the number of minority students increases. (Rollefson,
1990) Quitters and leavers cannot connect with, establish rapport, or reach diverse
children in urban poverty because at bottom they do not respect and care enough
about them to want to be their teachers. The students sense these ideologies and
perceptions and respond in kind by not wanting them to be their teachers. Contrary
to the popular debates on what teachers need to know to be effective, teachers in
urban schools do not quit because they lack subject matter or pedagogy. Quitters
and leavers know how to divide fractions and they know how to write lesson plans.
They leave because they cannot connect with the students and it is a continuous,
draining hassle for them to try to keep students on task. In a very short period
leavers are emotionally and physically exhausted from struggling against resisting
students for six hours every day. In 45 years of making classroom observations of
failing teachers I have never found an exception to this condition: if there is
a disconnect between the teacher and the students no mentoring, coaching, workshop,
or class on discipline and classroom management can provide the teacher with the
magic to control children s/he does not genuinely respect and care about. Applying
the term fully qualified to those who have completed approved programs
of teacher education but have not yet taught as teachers of record is a very serious
misrepresentation. It leads the uninitiated to believe that those who have completed
approved programs and who pass tests of subject matter and pedagogy are fully
qualified to connect with and teach diverse children in poverty in urban school
In teaching diverse children in poverty in highly regulated school organizations,
the criteria typically used to define the best and brightest are powerful,
valid predictors of failures and quitters. The majority of early leavers are individuals
with higher I.Q.s, GPAs, and standardized test scores than those who stay; more
have also had academic majors. (Darling-Hammond and Sclan, 1996) Teachers who earn
advanced degrees within the prior two years leave at the highest rates. (Boe et
al, 1997) Those who see teaching as primarily an intellectual activity are eight
times more likely to leave the classroom. (Quartz et al, 2001) In 1963 my Milwaukee
Intern Program became the model for the National Teacher Corps. In the ten years
(1963-1972) of the Corps existence approximately 100,000 college graduates
with high GPAs were prepared for urban teaching. While many stayed in education,
fewer than 5% remained in the classroom for more than three years. (Corwin, 1973)
This was the largest, longest study ever done in teacher education. That the shibboleth
best and brightest survives is testimony to the fact that many prefer
to maintain the belief that doing well in college predicts success in subsequent
practice. There is no correlation between doing well in any field of professional
preparation and effectiveness in the subsequent practice of it. (Heath,1977)
While being an effective teacher of diverse children in poverty has some intellectual
and academic aspects, it is primarily a human relations activity demanding
the ability to make and maintain positive, supportive connections with diverse children,
school staff and caregivers. The term best and the brightest might be
more appropriately used to refer to individuals who can actually demonstrate the
propensity to connect with and cause diverse children in poverty to learn in the
midst of mindless bureaucracies. Beyond describing college youth who earn high GPAs
and do well on written tests of teaching, the term is essentially meaningless. Those
threatened by this view misconstrue my advocacy to mean that I believe that knowledge
of subject matter and knowledge of teaching are unimportant. Not so. There is substantial
research and no question that teachers who know more English usage and who have
greater knowledge of the subject matters they teach, have children who learn more.
But it is only after their propensity to relate to diverse children in poverty has
been demonstrated that the teachers knowledge of subject matter and how to
teach can become relevant.
What this means in practice is that the institution or cooperative that does the
initial selection has to utilize not only interviews with predictive validity but
direct experiences in order to actually observe candidates interacting with and
trying to connect with children and youth. To stop the churn of teachers coming
and going, teacher education candidates should be required to demonstrate their
ability to relate to diverse children in poverty as an admission criterion, not
after they have been declared fully qualified and been made teachers
of record in a real school. I have found that observing candidates teach children
in summer school, prior to entrance into training, is the most efficient means of
selecting those who will succeed with diverse, poverty students and remain in urban
schools for any substantial period. Currently, the employing urban school districts
must screen for this ability to connect because the training programs have not.
This raises the more basic issue of whether future teachers (or anyone) can be taught
to connect with diverse children in poverty or whether this is an attribute learned
from mature reflection about ones life experiences after one has had some
life experiences. If it is, as I believe, the latter then it is an attribute that
must be selected for and not assumed to be the result of completing university coursework.
Indeed, there is substantial evidence that college courses and direct experiences
reinforce rather than change teacher education students positive or negative
predisposition to connect with diverse children in poverty. (Haberman, 1991) Our
observations reflect what our minds have already decided upon. Through the process
of selective perception positively predisposed candidates learn and grow during
their training programs while negatively predisposed candidates utilize the same
experiences to regress, i.e. they become narrower, more rigid and less accepting.
This is also true of inservice teachers. (Sleeter, 1992) The need to select the
right people initially rather than assume that training programs will change candidates
in important ways is the greatest weakness in teacher education and my strongest
advocacy for change.
III. Should the knowledge and concepts drawn from educational psychology continue
to serve as the primary knowledge base for understanding child development, learning
and normal behavior, or should other ways of knowing be included in more substantial
The knowledge base purporting to explain child development, how children learn and
what constitutes normal behavior that is offered in traditional programs of teacher
education is derived from the field of psychology where the unit of study and analysis
is the individual. Too often, what is regarded as normal behavior is based on what
white school psychologists and teachers believe to be normal behavior and development.
For example; future teachers are taught that it is not normal for children to sit
quietly all day. In my city there is a large population of Hmong children who sit
quietly all day and are a source of great concern to the teachers who place more
credence on psychological definitions of normal and on their own prejudices, than
on what they see acted out in front of them all day everyday by perfectly normal
children of a different culture.
It is not accidental that in my own city of Milwaukee with over 103,000 children
in public schools that there are 17,000 children, mostly African American and mostly
male, identified as emotionally disturbed, cognitively disabled or handicapped in
some way. The fact that parents in poverty are enticed by state and federal programs
of financial aid if they agree to have their children labeled as handicapped is
little known and rarely mentioned. Neither is the fact that 145 school psychologists
assisted by 100 Diagnostic Teachers receive more than 1,000 referrals from classroom
teachers every year. Further, school children, once labeled in primary grades, never
get unlabeled in upper grades even when they subsequently earn good grades or pass
the eighth grade tests for high school admission. In effect the school psychologists
in my city would have us believe that 16% or one out of six of our children are
abnormal. And that it will perfectly acceptable, given the referral rate, if by
2012, 25% or one out of four of our children will be labeled as handicapped in some
way. In effect, fully qualified teachers prepared in traditional university
based programs are systematically trained to view many of their children as somehow
lacking, deviant, or having special needs. It is certainly understandable that new
teachers unable to connect with and manage their students will see things that are
wrong with the children and their families rather than the inadequacies in themselves.
Trapped by biased, culture-bound definitions of how normal children should develop,
behave and learn language, it is inevitable that teachers would refer children they
cannot connect with for testing to equally limited school psychologists who then
provide the backup test scores and psychological evaluations to show that these
children are not capable of functioning in normal ways.
A more complete teacher education would utilize multiple knowledge bases for explaining
human development and behavior in addition to psychology. Understanding and utilizing
basic constructs from the fields of linguistics, anthropology, economics, environmental
studies and comparative religion would lead to a fuller understanding of human development,
to many more valid predictions of how children will behave and to definitions of
normal behavior that would be more reflective of in-depth scholarship and ethics
in a free, multicultural society.
Closely related to this need for a broadened content base is the issue of multicultural
teacher education. Unfortunately, there is much less going on in this field than
meets the eye. The demographic background is well known: 40% of the current school
population is now from racially and culturally diverse groups and will reach 57%
by 2035; Hispanics are the largest growing school population; and over 80% of the
children in poverty are children of color. At the same time teachers are 86% white.
While some multicultural education curricula has been widely adopted their impact
in programs of teacher education is weak.(Gollnick,1995; Zeichner,1996) Less frequently
discussed is the specific content to be added that would be of most worth for teachers
of diverse children and youth. Many advocates of multiculturalism argue for teachers
gaining a greater historical, economic and anthropological knowledge base which
could then be used in simplified form with children. On the other hand, a growing
number believe that multicultural education content has already been marginalized
in teacher education programs. They advocate focusing on issues of equity and justice
and for directly working for greater equal educational and life opportunities. Their
definition of high quality would be preparing teachers who would infuse
social action activities throughout the curricula they offer children and youth.
The gap between the content offered bilingual teachers in typical programs of preparation
and the performance competencies required of them in effective schools is extremely
wide. Their university coursework suggests they will be linguistic experts. Their
practice demonstrates they are harassed test tutors getting children ready to take
achievement tests in two languages. When successful bilingual programs in Houston,
Miami, Oakland and elsewhere are examined, it is clear that high quality
bilingual teachers are engaging in behaviors which create a highly supportive school
community. High quality bilingual teachers demonstrate that the child
is not the client but the child and his/her family are. The teacher education that
undergirds this behavior involves creating a similar supportive, peer community
for the trainees in bilingual training programs. In our training programs there
is a very close bonding created among very culturally diverse Hispanic candidates
which they then seek to implement in their subsequent practice. My own work in Houston
where our carefully selected teachers turned a failing school for Hispanic children
into a highly successful one involved creating a totally supportive environment
for children and their families. Everyone, not just the bilingual teachers, spoke
Spanish and could communicate with all the children in the school as well as with
parents. Such totally supportive school community environments are the basis for
advancing achievement in English as well as in all the content areas.
IV. Are the clients of teacher education programs university students in preparation
programs or the children/youth to be served? What are the implications of the answer
to this question for entrance criteria and exit criteria?
The clients of teacher preparation are not students in programs of teacher education
but the diverse children in poverty in urban schools who need effective teachers.
This change of focus causes many shifts in practice, the most notable being that
teacher candidates will be put through selection and training procedures that result
in significantly more of them self selecting out or being failed before they are
The great shortage of teachers does not mean that standards should be lowered but
that they must be raised. Teachers who will be effective and who will remain are
individuals who not only have knowledge of subject matter and pedagogy but who can
connect with diverse children in poverty and can function under adverse working
Candidates should not be admitted into programs of teacher education because they
have passed the traditional selection criteria at a college or university. In my
programs the local urban school district first processes candidates through their
selection procedures. Only those about whom the district is willing to state, We
will hire these individuals after they complete their preparation. are candidates
admitted to preparation programs. This notion is alien to the way university based
programs of preparation are administered and are financed. While it is a procedure
that works for intern programs offered in cooperation with urban school districts,
it would require major restructuring in the colleges and universities which prepare
most of the nations teachers.
Giving school districts serving diverse children in poverty major voice in the selection
process would inevitably cause changes in the exit criteria as well. The schools
would be selecting candidates they regard as willing and able to offer the curricula
and methods required in the particular district. Such alignment between entrance
and exit criteria based on a school districts practices would contravene what
many faculty believe is their academic freedom to focus on universal best practice.
For example, in my evaluation of the intern program offered in the New York City
schools, I found that the school district pays each cooperating university $12,500
in tuition for a masters degree for each intern employed as a teacher. The cooperating
university faculty I interviewed denigrated the particular reading, math and science
curricula required in the public schools and taught their own visions of best practice.
These university faculty felt no responsibility to teach curricula and methods of
which they disapproved simply because their students were required to teach those
curricula. They defined their responsibilities by defining the interns as masters
degree students not as employees of the New York City schools. The interns I interviewed
referred to their masters programs as the worlds greatest preparation
for the best of all non-existent worlds.
V. Should the problem of securing and retaining high quality teachers who stay be
defined as one of inadequacies of preparation or as a retention issue reflecting
conditions of work in urban school districts?
While I have argued that teachers leave primarily because they cannot connect with
children it is necessary to recognize that the conditions under which beginning
teachers work do present formidable obstacles. In some urban schools conditions
are so horrific that they drive out not only those who should never have been hired
but many who have the potential for becoming effective teachers and even stars.
The problem faced by policy makers is whether the strategy of recruiting and training
more mature people who can succeed in schools as they presently are is a better
strategy than continuing to focus on traditional populations of teachers who we
can predict will not take urban jobs or stay long if they do, and try to change
the conditions of work in these schools.
In my own city we train beginning teachers who are often expected to work under
conditions that are medieval: over 30 students in a class including eight students
with handicapping conditions, insufficient, outdated textbooks, no dictionaries,
no paper, no access to a copier that works, no computers connected to the internet,
science rooms without running water or any materials, no parking, no closet that
locks, or even a hook for teachers to hang up a coat. When I recently asked a principal
to provide a teacher with some chalk he replied, The teachers knew how much
money we had for supplies and they chose to use it up by October. What do you want
from me? My teacher spent $50 of her own money on chalk which was stolen the
next day because she had no place to secure it. This teacher, carefully selected
as someone who could survive in a mindless bureaucracy, didnt seem particularly
upset and rationalized the event by saying, Middle school kids dont
steal chalk so it was probably another teacher who needed it and will put it to
good use. Teachers in this city spend an average of $600 dollars a year of
their own money on supplies. (Haberman,1998) . Observing the equipment, supplies
and materials that urban teachers typically have to work with frequently leads one
to question whether these teachers are working in the United States of America.
In 2001 I visited schools in New York City on behalf of the New York State Department
of Education. These classrooms were exactly like the ones I was in as a child in
the same city 65 years ago. The only difference was that there was an electric clock
on the wall. In this financial and cultural world center I observed many caring,
well-intentioned beginners whose only teaching material was chalk, a blackboard
and paper already used on one side. Many of our urban schools function as isolated
third world outposts in the midst of a 21st century technological society.
But these are not the full extent of the negative conditions facing beginning teachers.
Getting through urban schools archaic personnel systems to be hired, securing
an assignment to a particular school and classroom, and then meeting the never-ending
paperwork and clerical demands wear any reasonable person down in short order. Added
to this is the problem of trying to teach in classrooms which experience an average
of 120 interruptions per week (Delgadillo, 1992). The mindless, overpowering bureaucracies
of urban school districts seem organized for the express purpose of driving out
the beginners who care the most and retaining only the strong insensitives; that
is, those who are inured to and can cope with the bureaucracy in spite of the fact
they dont empathize or connect with the children.
Unfortunately, status studies and summaries of these conditions do not change or
improve them. Advocating what should be does not change the nature of what urban
schools are or will be. We may all agree that the conditions of work faced by beginners
are a critical determinant in driving out many with high potential but the critical
question remains; is it likely that these conditions will improve or worsen? Consider
the prognosis for just five of the most commonly cited negative conditions of work:
salaries, safety, class size, principals and testing. Given health costs that double
every four years and other increasing costs which systems cannot control, how likely
is it that these districts will be able to pay teachers substantially more? While
smaller classes are required in a few states they tend to be unfunded mandates focused
on primary grades. Many middle schools have classes over 30 with up to 8 inclusion
students. Safety as a condition of work can be expected to consume more time and
resources not less. The shortage of principals who will function as supportive,
effective instructional leaders rather than as building managers is likely to worsen
since the conditions under which these individuals are expected to work are even
more stressful than those of teachers. Testing programs will increase in the intense
control they exert over teachers time and effort. If these are the five negative
conditions of work cited most by teacher leavers, and if it is likely they will
worsen, what is the basis for expecting that efforts to transform urban schools
will be more successful in the future than in the past? Against this background
of failure is the very strong record of recruiting mature adults, including minorities,
who will succeed and stay in urban districts under present conditions.
Considering the working conditions beginning teachers say they need or would like
versus those they regard as debilitating, the likelihood is far greater that the
negative conditions will not only continue but also worsen. What this means for
securing teachers who will stay and become effective is clear. While all constituencies
must do everything possible to try and improve the conditions under which beginning
urban teachers work we cannot be naïve at the expense of children in poverty
schools. The need is for teachers who can be effective with todays children
and youth in todays schools. We cannot take the pious position that it is
unfair or even immoral for beginning teachers to function in todays schools
and therefore we as teacher educators cannot be held accountable for who they select
or how they are trained until the urban schools are first transformed. There are
real children, spending the only childhood they will ever have going to these schools
everyday. Demanding that the schools improve before effective teachers can be prepared
for such places will sacrifice the education of 14 million children while we wait
for change agents who have been extremely unsuccessful up to now. The most prudent
policy must assume that whether these schools stay the same, or get even worse,
we will use what we know to recruit and prepare caring teachers who will make a
Other critical issues not discussed in this brief paper include: program accountability,
universal versus urban licenses, power to admit and deselect, using adult learning
and experiences, technology, testing and performance for licensure.
What are the Attributes of Effective Teachers of Diverse Children in Urban Poverty.
More than 100 urban districts hire over 25,000 teachers annually utilizing the Urban
Teacher Selection Interview. Over the last decade the seven functions outlined below
have been developed into interview protocols. This large annual sample reveals that
of college graduates who would like to try teaching in urban districts, 3 out of
ten over 30 years of age and 1 out of ten under 25 year of age pass the selection
interview. Pintrichs (1990) landmark summary of the research on the learning
and development of college students and its implications for teacher education is
a meta-analysis which, to my knowledge, no college or university program of teacher
education has ever utilized in developing its program. Reasonable people cannot
read Pintrichs summary of what is known about human development and learning
and still focus on young adults as the primary source of teachers. Using any respectable
theory of human development leads to the same conclusion. For white, middle class
females growing up in American society there is no more inappropriate stage of life
to prepare for teaching than young adulthood. Given the personal development of
youthful males the demands of teaching are an even greater mismatch.
The functions evaluated in this interview are as follows.
Persistence refers to the effective teachers continuous search for what works
best for individuals and classes. Part of this persistence involves problem solving
and creative effort. The manifestation of this quality is that no student goes unnoticed
or can stay off-task for very long. Effective teachers never give up on trying to
engage every student.
Protecting learners and learning refers to making childrens active involvement
in productive work more important than curriculum rigidities and even school rules.
Effective teachers not only recognize all the ways in which large school organizations
impinge on students but find ways to make and keep learning the highest priority.
Application of generalizations refers to the teachers ability to translate
theory and research into practice. Conversely, it also refers to the teachers
ability to understand how specific behaviors support concepts and ideas about effective
teaching. This dimension predicts the teachers ability to benefit from professional
Approach to at-risk students deals with the teachers perceptions of the causes
for and solutions to youngsters being behind in basic skills. Effective teachers
see poor schooling as a major cause. They are also willing to assume personal accountability
for their students learning in spite of the fact that they cannot control
all the in-school and out-of-school influences on their students.
Professional versus personal orientation to students refers to whether teachers
see teaching as a way to have children meet the teachers emotional needs.
Quitter/failures have a different set of expectations than effective teachers regarding
how they expect to relate to children. They find it difficult to maintain respect
and care about children who may do things they regard as despicable.
Burnout: its causes and cures predicts the likelihood the teacher will survive in
an urban school bureaucracy. The candidates with no understanding and expectations
regarding burnout are most likely to be victims.
Fallibility refers to the teachers willingness to admit mistakes and correct
them. This dimension of teacher behavior establishes the classroom climate and how
students respond to their mistakes in the process of learning.
Seven functions which also discriminate between effective and failing teachers in
urban settings which are not on the interview are the following:
- explanation of success, the demonstrated belief that students effort rather
than presumed ability accounts for success;
- high expectations, the demonstrated belief that all the children can be successful
once engaged and appropriately taught;
- organizational ability, the willingness to plan daily, gather materials and set
up a workable classroom;
- physical/emotional stamina, the ability to persist with commitment and enthusiasm
after instances of student violence, death and other crises;
- teaching style, the predisposition to engage in diversified methodologies in addition
to direct instruction;
- ownership, the predisposition to involve students in ways that give them voice
and lead them to believe it is their classroom;
- multi-tasking, the ability to do several things simultaneously for sustained periods.
What Policy Makers Should Assume as They Plan to Improve the Supply of High Diverse
Children in Urban School Districts?
1. Urban school staffs will continue to implement the publics narrow vision
of what should be accomplished in urban school with other peoples children
i.e. Get a job and stay our of jail.
2. The knowledge of most worth in urban schools will remain what is tested for.
3. There will be an increase in high stakes testing for determining who passes from
middle to high school and who graduates from high school.
4. The achievement gap will not be closed but become more widely accepted as a permanent
and natural condition.
5. The number of students designated as having a handicapping condition and the
number of inclusion students will continue to increase.
6. The climate in urban schools will continue to be dominated by issues of safety
and by teacher-student interactions more reflective of custodial institutions than
places of learning.
7. Uncontrollable costs of health care combined with increasing costs of heating
and safety will continue to take precedence over increasing the salary of teachers
or providing needed instructional equipment and supplies.
8. The problems of dropouts and teen age pregnancy will continue to be solved
by an expanded use of the GED.
9. Given the foregoing, the working conditions for beginners in urban schools will
continue to worsen.
10. Young, white, female monolingual, non-urban graduates with little or no experience
in the world of work will continue to be the primary clients of university based
teacher education programs.
11. The current U.S. Department of Education will continue to focus on identifying
failing schools and on supporting charter and voucher schools. They will continue
to support efforts for basing teacher licensure on tests of only subject matter
12. Urban school districts will expand their reliance on alternative certification
and on-the-job training in cooperation with local universities. Long tern subs will
remain the basic staff in many failing urban schools.
13. There will be a spurt of private, profit-making companies offering state approved
teacher education programs contracting with an increasing number of urban districts
in several states. More districts will contract out their recruiting and hiring
Making these assumptions supports some initiative and makes others problematic.
Following are suggestions that should make a difference in the number and quality
of teachers for diverse children in poverty in urban school districts.
1. New forms of teacher education addressing the needs of the growing population
of diverse children in poverty, trapped in failing school districts, need to be
developed. The current war between the advocates of university controlled teacher
education versus advocates of alternative certification will not result in one side
wiping out the other, nor in improving the quality, number or retention of teachers.
A structure establishing dialogue and cooperation which would adapt the best elements
of both approaches needs to be organized.
2. Multiple pathways into teaching need to be developed and expanded which will
emphasize recruiting populations of adults with the predisposition to relate to
children in poverty, foster learning and survive in urban school bureaucracies.
Having extensive work and child related experiences must be dealt with as assets,
not as intrusions in the teacher education program.
3.Recruiting should focus on populations of college graduates, particularly minorities
who are committed to the local metropolitan area and its children, and less on populations
of young, transient, temporary teachers passing through the school system on their
way to finding themselves.
4. The knowledge base exists for transforming individual urban schools into successful
ones using particular urban teacher education models. The focus of change must be
on particular school buildings and the constituencies they serve as the unit of
analysis. Focus on transforming total systems will merely replicate the long-term,
expensive failure of major foundations and government grants seeking to transform
urban districts. (Clark,2001)
5. New forms of local cooperatives involving higher education, school districts,
unions, state departments, ethnic communities and the business sector need to set
policy for teacher preparation program which are locally focused on specific urban
6. The cooperatives created to oversee teacher education must include systems for
holding all partners accountable for teacher performance and student achievement..
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Over 40% of the 3.2 million teachers teach in six states: California, New York,
Illinois, Florida, Texas and Ohio. 2/3 are elementary. My best estimate is that
app. 3.2 million new teachers will be hired by 2012 for the reasons cited in the
paper. Some states will produce an over supply( Conn., Minn., N.Y., Pa., and Wis.).
Other states will require more than they produce.(Cal., Fla., Nev. and Texas) But
the real shortage exists within states in urban and rural schools serving children
in poverty. Depending on the state, between 2/3 and 3/4 of the more than 300,000
new hires each year will be in schools serving predominantly diverse children in
poverty. While there are ongoing shortages in math, science and special education
these schools will need even more bilingual, early childhood, elementary and middle