Sunday, April 4, 2010

Allan Peachey: National Standards for Teacher Training

In recent articles I have made much of teacher quality. I have indicated that it is not National Standards themselves that will make more youngsters learn, it is quality teaching using National Standards that will. I have noted that there is now widespread agreement within the education sector that of all the factors that determine whether a youngster will learn or not the pre-eminent one is teacher quality.

In my last article I hinted at a mismatch between the qualities needed to complete teacher training and the qualities needed to make youngsters learn in the classroom. That may seem a strange thing to say but if it is true it has enormous implications for who are recruited into teacher training and who actually does the recruiting.

One of the concerns that I had as a Principal was that I was having to recruit new teachers from a pool of people that had been recruited by others. And few among these “others” were themselves practicising Principals. It is the Principal alone who has responsibility for the quality of teaching in a school. Yet I felt that as a Principal I had very little say in who was being selected for teacher training.

I was always concerned when acting as a referee for applicants for teacher training people who I thought had the qualities to make excellent classroom teachers were being rejected, particularly young men. It seemed to me that the “manly virtues” that we were fostering in our young men were not being viewed as qualities that were indicative of success in teacher training even if they were to me indicative of success in the classroom. Qualities like a love of sport or a natural courtesy towards women (to mention just a couple), certainly virtues that I valued in young men, seemed to be liabilities when it came to teacher training. It should come as no surprise to anyone that there is a shortage of men in teaching. Given what I have been describing is it little wonder that many young men do not find teaching an attractive option?

In fairness I should note that there are some outstanding young men currently teaching, and we have to keep them in teaching, but there just are not enough of them. The “all men are rapists” mentality that has pervaded teaching in some circles certainly is not conducive to making teaching attractive to young men.

Perhaps we should establish National Standards for entry to teacher training, standards based on the indicators that we know suggest whether a person has the qualities to make youngsters learn in the classroom. What a discussion that would spark! It would certainly force teacher trainers to move away from the “backsides on seats” approach to recruiting.

Maybe it’s time to look at teacher employment contract provisions which give a new teacher up to four years to come up to standard once they enter the classroom and imposes a huge obligation on schools to do that. I don’t think that a teacher should be allowed into the classroom alone until they are competent to do everything that a teacher who makes students learn does. Some teacher trainers set that standard for themselves, all should. What we currently do is throw open the classroom door, toss the new teacher in and expect them to behave as a 20 year veteran. And if they don’t or can’t its just bad luck for the youngsters in that class.

Schools are spending too much of their own time and money bringing teachers up to standard because of failings in the teacher training system. Teacher training organisations need to be held much more accountable for the quality of graduates that they are putting on to the teaching job market. Maybe forfeiture back to the Crown of the taxpayers’ money that went to training teachers who Principals find are actually not up to the job might sharpen things up a bit!

Teachers should not be graduated on the basis that their “backside has been on a seat for a defined period of time” but on the basis of whether they have or acquired the qualities that teachers need to make youngsters learn. National Standards for teacher training? There would have to be agreement as to what those “standards” are to begin with, which could be a good thing, but only if the standards much more closely reflect the facts rather than political correctness.

1 comment:

Duncan Hamilton said...

Well said Allan Peachey. As a primary school student during the war years 1941 to 1945 boarding at a private school in Hawk's Bay (Hereworth)we had the good fortune to have a tremendously good Head Master in J.D.H. Buchanan and some pretty good teachers even though some of our best were away at the war. As a nine to fourteen year old Aucklander I learnt enough at Hereworth to get me through secondary school in Christchurch in four years with 4 subjects passed for my Accounting degree to boot. In addition at Hereworth went tramping, achieved a 1 mile swim, was forced to play Cricket, Hockey,Soccer (until 10 years old), then Rugby, Boxing, Athletics, and long distance running over the Te Mata Hills, plus tramping in the Ruahines and other places.
We learnt hobbies such as Carpentry, Bookbinding,Dancing with Jean Ballantyne, and piano from Cecil Spinney the orgqanist at St Matthews Church in Hastings, and some study of religion and the bible and what it meant. We had one Sunday Exeat a term (13 weeks) and loved every minute of our education.

It Illustrates what a good headmaster (or headmistress)can do for a 9 to 14 year old child at the most impressionable time of his/her life. To listen to all the yowling of the Teachers association on National Standards just goes to show who is responsible for our lack of performance and the disgraceful fact the stastics seem to show so many Kiwis are coming through school today uneducated in such subjects as reading, writing and arithmetic and further shows the parlous state the political correctness plus Union self interest has got us into.

Duncan Hamilton