By Walter Williams
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
American education is in a sorry state of affairs, and there's enough blame for all participants to have their fair share. They include students who are hostile and alien to the education process, uninterested parents, teachers and administrators who either are incompetent or have been beaten down by the system, and politicians who've become handmaidens for teachers unions.
There's another education issue that's neither flattering nor comfortable to confront and talk about. That's the low academic preparation of many teachers. That's an issue that must be confronted and dealt with if we're to improve the quality of education. Let's look at it.
Schools of education tend to represent the academic slums of most college campuses. They tend to be home to students who have the lowest academic achievement test scores when they enter college, such as SAT scores. They have the lowest scores when they graduate and choose to take postgraduate admissions tests, such as the GRE, the MCAT and the LSAT.
The California Basic Educational Skills Test, or CBEST, is mandatory for teacher certification in California. It's a joke.
Here's a multiple-choice question on its practice math test: “Rob uses 1 box of cat food every 5 days to feed his cats. Approximately how many boxes of cat food does he use per month? A. 2 boxes, B. 4 boxes, C. 5 boxes, D. 6 boxes, E. 7 boxes.”
Here's another: “Which of the following is the most appropriate unit for expressing the weight of a pencil? A. pounds, B. ounces, C. quarts, D. pints, E. tons.”
Some years ago, the Association of Mexican American Educators, the California Association for Asian-Pacific Bilingual Education and the Oakland Alliance of Black Educators brought suit against the state of California and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, charging that the CBEST was racially discriminatory. Plaintiff “evidence” was the fact that the first-time passing rate for whites was 80 percent, about 50 percent for Mexican-Americans, Filipinos and Southeast Asians, and 46 percent for blacks. In 2000, in a stroke of rare common sense, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found CBEST not to be racially discriminatory.
Poor teacher preparation is not a problem restricted to California. In Massachusetts, only 27 percent of new teachers could pass the math test needed to be certified as a teacher. A 2011 investigation by Atlanta's Channel 2 Action News found that more than 700 Georgia teachers repeatedly failed at least one portion of the certification test they are required to pass before receiving a teaching certificate. They also found that there were 297 teachers on the Atlanta school system's payroll even though they had failed the state certification test five times or more.
Textbooks used in schools of education might explain some teacher ineptitude. A passage in Marilyn Burns' text “About Teaching Mathematics” reads, “There is no place for requiring students to practice tedious calculations that are more efficiently and accurately done by using calculators.” “New Designs for Teaching and Learning,” by Dennis Adams and Mary Hamm, says, “Content knowledge is not seen to be as important as possessing teaching skills and knowledge about the students being taught.”
With but a few exceptions, schools of education represent the academic slums of most any college. American education could benefit from slum removal, eliminating schools of education.
Walter Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- For Steelers defense, it’s all a matter of trust
- Jokinen takes center stage as fill-in for Pens’ Malkin
- Pitt slows down Loyola Marymount, 85-68
- Fans of former conservative radio hosts Quinn, Tennent support toy drive
- Steelers notebook: Woodley expects to start Sunday vs. Dolphins
- Long-overdue memorial to region’s World War II vets opens
- Latrobe couple accused of using car trunk to end son’s fear of the dark
- Penguins notebook: Malkin to miss 2nd straight game Saturday
- High school basketball roundup: Top-ranked Elizabeth Forward wins opener
- Greensburg Diocese’s school chief out
- Ex-Pirate Jones close to signing with Marlins