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Teacher training: 'Industry of mediocrity,' says controversial report

Quantity over quality? Teacher training programs are turning out too many teachers, says a new review from the National Council on Teacher Quality, and they're poorly equipped to face the classroom.

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Jennifer Harrelson leads fourth-grade teachers during a TNCore summer training session in South Pittsburg, Tenn. on Tuesday, June 18. More than 30,000 teachers from across the state have signed up to be trained over the next six weeks, according to Education Department spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier.

Dan Henry / Chattanooga Times Free Press / AP

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The nation's teacher-training programs do not adequately prepare would-be educators for the classroom, even as they produce almost triple the number of graduates needed, according to a survey of more than 1,000 programs released Tuesday.

The National Council on Teacher Quality review is a scathing assessment of colleges' education programs and their admission standards, training and value. The report, which drew immediate criticism, was designed to be provocative and urges leaders at teacher-training programs to rethink what skills would-be educators need to be taught to thrive in the classrooms of today and tomorrow.

"Through an exhaustive and unprecedented examination of how these schools operate, the review finds they have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms" with an ever-increasing diversity of ethnic and socioeconomic students, the report's authors wrote.

"A vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars," the report said.

The report was likely to drive debate about which students are prepared to be teachers in the coming decades and how they are prepared. Once a teacher settles into a classroom, it's tough to remove him or her involuntarily and opportunities for wholesale retraining are difficult — if nearly impossible — to find.

The answer, the council and its allies argue, is to make it more difficult for students to get into teacher preparation programs in the first place. And once there, they should be taught the most effective methods to help students.

"There's plenty of research out there that shows that teacher quality is the single most important factor," said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a supporter of the organization's work.

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