Locked in a cycle of self-induced frustration over the abysmal condition of public school education, I find myself returning again to the subject for another old fashion self “whippin.”  Pray, don’t let me get huffy about it!

In August, 2011, a Wallace piece appeared on the Times Dispatch Op Ed, Educational Mediocrity Hurts Blacks. Based on reporting by Jesse Washington, AP Correspondent, regarding black economic reversals suffered from the Great Recession, this column carried an education metric further. Bemoaning the weaknesses of inner-city classrooms, lack of quality education, with predictable grades, I cringed at the continued cultivation of a majestic jobs and economic divide. Students, who receive and achieve quality educations, will become adept – those who don’t – won’t.

Enter a newer, darker – even sinister – cloud to an already weakened educational scene. It appears new, but weaker prepared teachers, are contributing to negation of student achievements. Stunningly, the National Council on Teaching Quality addresses this head-on.

It is not our desire to ladle up drippings of pessimism on all current teacher-prep institutions; but something’s afoot. This troubling study grapples with a needed do-over for many U.S. Schools of Education. Critical intensity now invites academic communities to reference these Education Schools as an “industry of mediocrity.”

Kate Walsh, president, National Council on Teacher Quality, urges that aspiring teachers – and school districts that hire them – ensure accurate information about quality and due diligence. Tragically, the NCTO report astounds; it finds hard evidence new teacher performance is not only deficient; it’s a direct product of inferior training from schools of Education across the country.

Worse, secondary high school students can be victimized from mediocre teacher preparation, generating lower levels of academic accomplishment – especially in vulnerable urban areas. Poorly prepared teachers could be taking a toll on secondary student achievement -becoming  possible perpetrators in classroom failure.

Bumpily, landing in high school classrooms, new teachers often appear insecure, maybe unsure.  Lacking both accumulative subject expertise and professional classroom management skills, diminish them.  What is it with these well over “608 institutions that collectively account for 72% of the Education graduates in the nation?” Could this become an educational train wreck?

W.S.J.’s Stephanie Banchero reports that Education institutions “churn out teachers ill-prepared to work in elementary and high school classrooms” – an alarming discovery from the National Council on Teaching Quality’s review. The reporter sniffs that rigorous assessment of current curriculum is required – that selected teacher programs need scrutinizing. Meaningful evaluation of syllabi must be instituted. Textbooks, plus other teaching materials, should be up for careful review.

Strikingly, experienced master teachers echo that new teachers arrive unprepared.  Magically, they’re expected to challenge school culture, which accommodates degenerate behavior. Troubled systems, unwilling to confront weak home discipline, can present an insurmountable challenge for fresh teachers.

“What I really needed – what most teachers need – more hands-on experience working in classrooms during our college days,” Megan Stewart volunteered to the WSJ. Having completed a second teaching year in a low-income Chicago public school, Stewart implies her Education background did not help her – especially when she desired to devise student-testing data for customized solutions.

More troubling, the Teacher Quality report contends student applicants, seeking entrance are not up to the grade. Only 25% of the institutions really “restrict” admissions for applicants – from the top 50 per cent of their class. Yes, I write: top 50%.  Other doors are wide open for unrestricted general acceptance.

Contemplating teacher training three decades ago at age 45, I studied under Dr. Bruce Cobb, University of Richmond School of Education. It wasn’t long before tutorial requirements demanded real classroom presence – Henrico High School in Richmond. That county’s educational leaders, Drs. William E. Ware, Jr. and Carol Cloninger, insisted on that. Explicit, cutting-edge teacher training was rigorous in that urban, minority high school environment – no pabulum there.

Former colleague, Dr. Catherine Fisher, now Program Chair, Graduate Education, University of Richmond, recently shared, “we have been fortunate to have strong student candidates (here) who have gone on to be named school teacher of the year…we are a small shop and are able to have tremendous personal interaction with every candidate.”

The report concludes:  “just over one-third of high-school programs properly prepare teachers to teach the Common Core standard”….about 75% are not preparing graduates to teach reading to youngsters.

When will something positive development from these institutions?  Maybe my question deserves  another self-whippin.


Raymond B. Wallace, Jr. a former CEO, former trustee of Virginia Retirement System, and retired Advancement U.S History teacher in Richmond, can be reached at: rbwallace01@verizon.net.