Report Blasts Education Schools

Schools provide inadequate training for elementary, secondary school teachers

In a report released earlier this week, the president of Teachers College at Columbia University criticized graduate schools of education for failing to provide adequate preparation for elementary and secondary school leaders.

“Collectively, educational administration programs are the weakest of all the programs at the nation’s education schools,” Arthur E. Levine wrote in the report, which is available on the Teachers College website.

Levine faulted programs for lacking coherent curricula, having low admissions standards, and relying on underqualified faculty. He recommended eliminating doctoral degrees in school leadership and instead creating a master’s degree program in educational administration, requiring students to study both education and management.

The report was based on surveys of education school deans, faculty, and alumni as well as school principals and superintendents.

The researchers also conducted case studies of 28 schools that are to remain anonymous.

Harvard Graduate School of Education (GSE) Dean Ellen Condliffe Lagemann declined to comment on the report through a spokesman yesterday.

But Paul L. Harris, professor of education at GSE, took issue with Levine’s claim that educational administration programs “range from inadequate to appalling.”

Harris said that most GSE students are already studying to receive master’s degrees, rather than the doctoral degree in educational leadership that Levine criticized.

Harvard’s program is “in a reform process,” Harris said. “Since Dean Lagemann has been here, we have already made several changes.”

Harris said he recognizes that the nation’s education schools have room for improvement, but he added, “That doesn’t distinguish them from all the other professional schools and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.”

Alvin P. Sanoff ’63, an education journalist and university consultant who served as project manager for Levine’s study, praised the study for being the “most comprehensive effort to look at education schools that has been undertaken.”

While Sanoff said he could not comment on Harvard’s education programs specifically, he said the criteria the report outlined for evaluating educational leadership programs applies to the GSE, as well.

Sanoff said that education schools often sit low on the pecking order at large universities and can suffer as a result.

“Historically, Harvard’s school of education has suffered from lower status compared to Harvard’s other schools,” said Sanoff, who is the former managing editor of U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” and “America’s Best Graduate Schools.”

But Harris said he does not sense such a lack of attention from the administration at Harvard.

“The University itself is emphasizing interdisciplinary work and to that extent, education is less isolated than it might have been in the past,” he said.

The report also criticizes schools of education for being “cash cows,” setting low admissions requirements and offering short-term degree programs to generate revenue for their universities.

The GSE’s admissions office staff declined to comment, but GSE Director of Communications Michael Rodman said the school had “very high admissions standards.”

“Our students are extremely talented and extremely accomplished,” he said.

The report is part of a larger study on graduate schools of education. According to Sanoff, more reports will be released in the course of the next six to twelve months.

Sanoff said that universities should provide more resources to their schools of education “so they can accomplish what the nation needs done.”

“If actions aren’t taken by the institutions, then eventually education schools run the risk of becoming largely irrelevant,” Sanoff said.