Jay Mathews, usually a sharp education reporter, missed a beat or two in his August 6th Washington Post article, Learning from the Masters. He tries to make the point that “some of the best” teachers do not learn their lessons in education schools and university professors ignore what award winning-teachers, like Jason Kamras, have to offer. Mr. Kamras, the 2005 National Teacher of the Year with a masters degree in education from Harvard University, uses a number of successful “tricks of the trade” – seemingly not taught in education school courses. After only a few telephone calls to unnamed professors, Mr. Mathews leaps to the spurious conclusion that education schools do not help future teachers learn from experts (like using Mr. Kamras’ strategy of “marking of just a few homework questions helped raise test scores by enabling him to cover more lessons without getting bogged down in grading papers.”). Mr. Mathews complains that education schools teach research-proven methods at the expense of teaching the “practical” but “unorthodox” teaching methods of award-winning teachers.
Mr. Mathews should have also featured in his article Betsy Rogers — 2003 National Teacher of the Year. Betsy, a National Board Certified Teacher from Alabama, returned to teach in 2004 to one of her state’s lowest performing schools, Brighton Elementary. Betsy is an extraordinary teacher (and now curriculum coach) whose teaching experiences and methods have been chronicled in Education Week and in her blog on the Teacher Leaders Network.
Betsy is also a clinical professor at Samford University where she helps prepare new teachers – who have been recruited to work with her at Brighton. A few weeks ago Betsy told me how she and her Samford professorial colleagues are using scientifically-based approaches to reading with their teacher education students — and this has been the key to soaring student test scores of the Samford graduates who are now teaching with her at Brighton. And now last eve,
Betsy informed me that Brighton, just two years after her arrival, made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as prescribed by No Child Left Behind.
Samford University, like all high-quality education schools, draw on K-12 teaching experts to prepare the next generation of future teachers. Education schools are needed more than ever to help future and practicing teachers learn how to teach in increasingly challenging schools. The best ones draw on proven theories of how to teach literacy and math as well as how to design lessons for second language learners and to reach out to parents and family members. The best education schools also draw on lessons from the masters like Mr. Kamras and Ms. Rogers. Mr. Mathews should be a bit more diligent and precise in gathering data for his stories.