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The History of Educating Teachers in the United States

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The history of educating teachers is one that has evolved over time. In the early 1800s the requirements for entry into teaching were not rigorous. Candidates were required only to persuade a local school board of their moral character, and in some locations, pass a test of general knowledge (Ravitch, 2007). Pennsylvania was the first state to require all prospective teachers to pass a test on basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. In the late 19th century, though, different states began to adopt different approaches to training teachers.

Beginning in 1839, Massachusetts was the first state to control and subsidize teacher education programs (Seaborne, 1974; Shapiro, 1988). The notion of states controlling teacher education programs spread quickly and by 1900, many states had instituted state controlled, tax-funded, teacher education programs and licensing (Angus, 2001). It was during this time that graduate schools with specialized goals and specialized objectives emerged. Such specific areas of study as administration, educational psychology, educational sociology, and curriculum appeared, and ultimately began to create a division between educational leadership and the classroom teaching (Yos, 2011; Borg, 2004).

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This division also contributed to a greater separation between the study of educational pedagogy and liberal arts and science programs. There was a bit of reconciliation early in the 20th century. Educational researchers agreed upon a set of “laws of learning” that were immutable (Buchmann, 1987). Unfortunately, a generation later these laws have been forgotten. What did appear, though, was the beginningof educational pendulum swings that were fleeting and often lacked significant research data to support them (Darling-Hammond, 2007). One of these swings included the use of intelligence tests to direct instruction and another was instructing teachers to avoid oral reading. At other times the pendulum swung to direct parents not to read to their children. And yet another example occurred in the 1930s when reading researchers dissuaded teachers from phonics instruction (Berliner, 2000; Ravitch, 2007).More recent educational “fads” include the Back to Basics movement, the Open Classroom movement of the 1970s, and whole language instruction, to name a few.

9An important government policy was signed into law recently – the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), formerly called Title I and more recently called No Child Left Behind. Among other things, it requires new teachers to be granted licenses to teach only if they have a bachelor’s degree and full state certification, or its equivalent (Boydston, 2011). At the elementary school level this includes passing a subject knowledge assessment as well as a test related to teaching skills in reading, writing, and mathematics (Whitehurst, 2003).Through the years, there has been increasing ambiguity as to the best ways to license teachers, as well as the many definition of good teaching (Green, 2007). This has resulted at times in “knee-jerk” reactions and pendulum swings leaving educational systems in considerable disarray. A key characteristic of great teachers is their knowledge and recognition that there’s always room to grow, whichis no different from what we expect of our students.Do Teachers Matter?Based upon the ESEA provisions, some assumptions can be made. One of these is that teachers matter (Yos, 2012). While this appears to be accepted knowledge, there continue to be discussion and disagreement with this commentary based on certain studies and general premises, that is the digital society.There is much anecdotal data being gathered regarding teacher importance to student academic success. As some researchers have pointed out, in science the plural of anecdotes is not data. Sociologist Coleman (2000) actually refuted the assumption of the importance of teacher quality in a study that included over 60,000 teachers and over 3,000 schools. He found

10that success was directly correlated to socioeconomic background rather than classroom teachers. This study, while significant in sample size, is now seen as flawed. All of his analyses were done using data gathered on a school basis. For example, the average vocabulary score for all teachers was related to the average test scores of the students in the school. By aggregating data in this way, by averaging effective teachers with ineffective teachers, and high-performing students with low-performing students, it was unclear what specific characteristics of teaching made a difference (Ravitch, 2011).In more recent years, multi-leveled studies have generated much higher estimates of teacher influence upon student achievement. These studies have taken into consideration knowledge about student abilities as well as global knowledge, the classroom, and the school in which that classroom is located. With a large sample size, it is possible to get a much closer estimate of the importance of each of these factors and the influence of teachers on learning. They do not indicate, though, which strategies and techniques teachers are using to bring about success. They in essence tell us that teachers are important, but not why (Goldstein, 2004).Value-added methods of performing research have contributed greatly to evaluating the importance of teachers. Basically, this method compares student gains across several years rather than the scores at a single point. It also fails to use grade-level benchmarks to influence research results. One such study done by Sanders and Rivers (1996; Nuttall, 2012), found that having teachers identified as poor 3 years in a row played a significant difference in achievement versus students who had high-performing teachers. Sanders and Rivers (1996) found that by the end of the fifth grade, students of ineffective teachers performed at the 29thpercentile. Their counterparts, on the other hand, scored at the 83rd percentile.

Cite this The History of Educating Teachers in the United States

The History of Educating Teachers in the United States. (2021, Apr 12). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-history-of-educating-teachers-in-the-united-states/

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