Duncan Offers Incentives for 'Revolutionary' Overhaul of Teacher Colleges

As I predicted Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan's major speech at Columbia University this week called on America's teacher colleges to follow the lead of Louisiana, which has been setting the pace nationally in terms of overhauling its schools of education. The state has turned the devastation wrought by Katrina into an opportunity to force through the kind of education reforms that other states just can't seem to muster. One of its most controversial strategies has been to include data on how effectively new graduates are teaching and how much their students are learning when evaluating the quality of teacher colleges and other training programs.

As Duncan put it: "Right now, Louisiana is the only state in the nation that tracks the effectiveness of its teacher-preparation programs. Every state in the nation should be doing the same." Duncan said the U.S. Department of Education would "provide incentives for states" through the ongoing $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition to make serious upgrades in their teacher colleges.

Duncan also went out of his way to chide university presidents for their failure to take the lead in overhauling the nation's overwhelmingly "mediocre" teacher colleges while blaming everyone else for the fact that too many high-school seniors aren't prepared to handle college-level work.

"I do not understand when college presidents and deans of the arts and science faculty ignore their teacher-preparation programs—and yet complain about the cost of providing remedial classes to freshmen," Duncan said. "Simply put, incoming freshmen don't know the content because too often they have been taught by teachers who don't know the content well."