Press Releases | General Education

College Trustees to Improve Teacher Education

ACTA's "Trustees for Better Teachers" Launched with New Publication
October 10, 2002

WASHINGTON, DC—The Trustees for Better Teachers project, a major new effort to mobilize college and university trustees to raise standards in teacher education programs, was launched today by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

Trustees participating in the project will be asked to conduct board reviews of the quality of their colleges’ teacher education programs, to examine performance indicators, and to demand improvements that raise standards, emphasize subject-matter content, and focus on learning outcomes. By getting trustees involved in teacher education programs, the Trustees for Better Teachers project will bring an independent voice of university governance to bear on an important national issue.

ACTA also released the project’s first publication, Educating Teachers: The Best Minds Speak Out, a collection of ten essays that take a critical look at the programs in which most American teachers are trained, and suggest better alternatives. The book is being distributed to over 4,000 college and university trustees whom the Trustees for Better Teachers project hopes to mobilize to press for changes in teacher education programs.

“A key theme of the book,” according to its editor, George C. Leef, ACTA’s director of higher education policy, “is that the prevailing approach to teacher education in the U.S. places great emphasis on theories about how teachers should teach, and very little on what they should teach.”

“Most education schools insist that teachers should not actually do much instructing, but instead allow students the freedom to ‘construct their own knowledge,’” Leef said. “A teacher, they say, should be ‘a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage.’”

“As a result, teachers are often not sufficiently knowledgeable about the subjects they teach and students are left to flounder. The result is that American students increasingly lag behind our international competitors,” Leef said.

The writers represented in Educating Teachers include high school teachers, college professors, and journalists.

Edwin J. Delattre, the former Dean of Boston University’s School of Education, says that the book “is a fine collection of essays on the educational formation of teachers worthy of their high office and profound responsibilities. The authors, their intellectual powers enriched by experience, write in stark opposition to the jargon and dogma that have ruined so much of teacher preparation in America.”

A sampling of quotations from the book:

For over 80 years, teacher education in America has been in the grip of an immutable dogma, responsible for endless educational nonsense. That dogma may be summed up in the phrase: Anything But Knowledge. Schools are about many things, teacher educators say (depending on the decade) self-actualization, following one’s joy, social adjustment, or multicultural sensitivity but the one thing they are not about is knowledge. – Heather Mac Donald

Teaching is one of the most demanding and dynamic occupations on earth. With that in mind, the pronouncement that one method of teaching is best seems dubious. In a constantly changing environment, a teacher must be eclectic, spontaneous, and highly adaptable. The insistence on a single strategy bears the hallmark of academic educators who are isolated in their own theoretical models. – Lawrence Baines and Gregory Stanley

Whereas U.S. educators have sought major changes over relatively short time periodsindeed, the very word reform connotes sudden and wholesale change Japanese educators have instituted a system that leads to gradual, incremental improvements in teaching over time. The system includes clear learning goals for students, a shared curriculum, the support of administrators, and the hard work of teachers to make gradual improvements in their practice. – James Stigler and James Hiebert

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality and accountability.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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