Hayden is right in calling for reform in education, including in teacher preparation. Although research suggests California is ahead of the nation in many respects, e.g. subject matter preparation and academic quality of teacher candidates, Hayden is correct in identifying a key problem, namely, genuine support for the beginning teacher. Research shows that the first two years of teaching are the most difficult. The dropout rate of new teachers is estimated by some to be as high as 50%.
It takes time for a professional to assimilate technical skills and translate them into effective practice. Teacher preparation programs, limited to one year in duration by current law, can only begin the process. But now our graduates are forced into a sink-or-swim situation.
There are strategies to cope with this problem--for example, a fully paid internship year during which the new teacher is given a solid support by a veteran master teacher and a university faculty mentor through periodic formative evaluations and constructive advise and assistance.
I deeply regret, however, Hayden’s criticisms of candidates entering teacher preparation. The data he cites, namely, low California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) scores and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) information, miss the mark in California. Research on state university teacher candidates shows that in California, unlike the rest of the nation, the typical person entering teacher preparation is a college graduate with a solid grade-point average (in the 2.9 to 3.1 range), highly motivated, caring and with an academic record at least as good as persons with the same undergraduate preparation who choose other careers.
It is important to understand a problem before you can fix it. Hayden is on the right track with suggestions about improving the status and support for teaching as a profession. However, it is a mistake to criticize the fine teachers and teacher candidates who have gone through California’s programs in recent years.
PETER A. FACIONE
Facione is dean of the School of Human Development and Community Service at California State University, Fullerton, and president of California Deans of Education Roundtable.