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Government Initiative Tests Education Graduate Schools

President Obama wants data on student performance tied back to teacher preparation.

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Besides learning the traditional teaching techniques and theory, says the school's dean, Candice McQueen, future teachers take coursework to deepen their own understanding of geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.

And at some schools (including Stanford, says Darling-Hammond), there has long been an emphasis on clinical experiences. Now colleges nationwide are taking their cue from the hands-on and closely supervised medical school model. "Medical training offers the best integration we know of between theory and practice. Clinical education is taken very seriously there," Levine says.

His foundation, which helped implement the Indianapolis fellowship program Fowler is in along with similar ones at the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and 14 other schools, made early classroom time mandatory. The foundation is studying the impact grads have on pupil learning, with preliminary results expected soon.

In 2010, Teachers College at Columbia University, where Levine previously served as president, introduced a 14-month master's degree "residency" program for people seeking to teach English as a second language or work with students with intellectual disabilities or autism in the city; candidates spend most of their time apprenticing with teachers in city schools.

At the University of Washington College of Education in Seattle, all first-semester math, social studies, and literacy methods courses are now taught in an elementary school. Future teachers learn methods and the theories behind them from a university faculty member, observe a teacher using the technique, then lead small-group activities with the kids.

"The candidates benefit from a very tightly knit cycle: Learn, plan, practice, reflect, refine, practice," says Tom Stritikus, the college dean.

Taking a step toward the pupil-based evaluation President Obama envisions, some 140 schools have banded together under the leadership of Stanford and the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education to form a consortium dedicated to doing a better job of assessing teacher candidates' performance before graduation. The group plans to develop a standardized measurement system, which may include pupils' work samples, a portfolio of lesson plans, video clips of instruction, and the like.

This type of evaluation is used now at Relay Graduate School of Education in New York, which spun off last year from City University of New York's Hunter College. Relay students—primarily full-time teachers at public charter and district schools—study a curriculum comprising 60 pragmatic and content modules (pacing a lesson, making easy classroom transitions, writing development), online and in occasional discussion groups.

They regularly submit lesson plans for evaluation and, thanks to video cameras in the classrooms where they teach, obtain feedback from professors on their techniques.

At the end of the year, Relay master's candidates are required to defend their abilities by submitting a portfolio demonstrating their successes. Nobody gets a degree without first showing that the students under their care for the year made at least a year's worth of academic progress.

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